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My First Blog Post

Wellness

The quality or state of being in good health, especially as an actively sought goal.

— Merriam-Webster

I don’t know about you, but I’ve been chasing wellness most of my adult life in some way. It’s one of the reasons I chose to become a physical therapist. I wanted to also help others feel well, and it’s not always about medicine. I’ve also been some version of vegetarian my entire adult life, finally making the full jump to vegan over two years ago.

What exactly does it mean, though, to feel well? One could argue that there are many facets to wellness. It’s not just about your physical well-being, but also social, spiritual, emotional, and environmental factors. If one of these is off, you feel unsettled. And sometimes it’s challenging to figure out which one of these elements is the culprit.

We tend to focus on physical wellness, right? What’s my cholesterol? How many medications do I rely on to stay healthy? How can I better manage my chronic diseases? How can I achieve and maintain a healthy weight?  How can I keep up with my kids?

I know I asked myself these questions when I first began my own wellness journey. I was overweight after having 2 kids, dealing with persistent pain, and wearing the largest size clothes in my life. Not exactly great for my emotional wellness! Does this story sound familiar?

So I began with a goal. My goal was to lose weight. 30 lbs to be exact. I started making use of my YMCA membership and used the food and activity tracker myfitnesspal to reach my goal. It took me about a year to lose the weight, but I knew I wanted to keep working toward better fitness. I was already bored with gym equipment.

In the lobby of my local YMCA, I saw a flyer for a local 5k, the Ashland Harvest Run held every October. Running 3.1 miles seemed like a daunting, yet achievable task. The best way to reach a goal is to break it down into smaller ones. I worked toward running a mile without stopping, then 2 miles. And then it was race day. I ran/walked the entire thing, finishing in the middle of the pack! It was so exciting… the whole race experience, meeting my goal, and performing better than I expected. I officially caught the running bug that day. A friend of mine convinced me to join the Sports Backers/YMCA 10k training team, and this is where I met one of my best friends. She would convince me that I was capable of even more… the marathon. A few training teams later, we have a solid crew of running sisters… sole sisters… and my life is exponentially better because of them! So great for my social wellness! I have now completed 6 marathons. I’m currently training for number 7, the Marine Corps Marathon. I’m also now a coach with the Sports Backers Marathon Training Team with Pink Nation.  

What other crazy do I do, you ask? Well, my journey inspired my husband to find his tribe, too, and he started like me at our local YMCA. He eventually found his way to CrossFit, and he is now a level 1 trainer. I told him I would never try CrossFit unless he opened his own gym. In July of 2017, I had to eat my words, because he started a box with some business partners! He has even competed at the Masters level with some success, placing first in the Festivus games and third in the SuperFit games in 2018. We have since left this business endeavor, but Ralph is working out at a new box and focusing on being an athlete for a bit.

I enjoy the new challenges of CrossFit. Everyone is good at something in the box. Maybe you can’t do handstands, but you can lift weight! Maybe I can’t lift as much as you, but I can do pistol squats! The day I climbed that rope for the first time… well, I felt like Shalane Flannagan crossing the finish line of the NYC marathon! But the best part about CrossFit? It’s been great for our marriage.

I’m also spending some time fostering my creativity. I’ve recently launched a tie-dye shirt business, and I am dabbling in turning my favorite quotes into mixed media art. I hope to sell these at some point as well.

So, here I am. A 44 year old mother of two, married to a talented CrossFit coach, working as a physical therapist, 6 time marathoner, Vegan, artist, and sometimes CrossFit athlete. This sounds more impressive on paper than it really is. This is just me, chasing wellness.

Through this blog, I hope you find inspiration in your own journey. I plan to share with you recipes, running stories and tips, CrossFit stories, vegan tips, nutrition information, fitness clothing reviews, vegan food reviews, a bit of art, and fun features of living in Richmond! Thanks for reading!

This is the first post on my new blog. I’m just getting this new blog going, so stay tuned for more. Subscribe below to get notified when I post new updates.

Safe for All?

Activism is exhausting. Sometimes I feel like I keep making the same argument, with no one in leadership listening. In the latest debacle in my county, the school board, at the request of a handful of conservative religious grassroots organizations, has declared Safe Space stickers be removed from classrooms, deeming them political in nature and in danger of “indoctrinating” children. Yes, really. 

So, I wrote an email, naturally. Since so few of mine seem to be read or seem important enough to warrant a response, I decided to take a different approach. Surely with a Bible verse as a lead, that would get their attention. I wasn’t wrong. Here’s my email:

Dear School Board:

“You shall not take vengeance or bear a grudge against the sons of your own people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself.” – Leviticus 19:18

Love your neighbor as yourself. This is a theme repeated throughout the Old Testament and the Gospels of the New Testament. And, yes, I have read the Bible in its entirety. It’s a lesson that conservative Christians should fully comprehend, yet this is not the example they are setting for our children, some of you among them. 

On my drive home from work, I used to be greeted by a Tea Party sign which stated, “Conservatives, welcome home! Liberals, thanks for visiting?” The sign was up for months. As a liberal property owner in Hanover County, how do you think that sign made me feel? Very unwelcome. But unfortunately, this conservative group has the freedom to post whatever they like on the side of our roads, however offensive their messages may be. It’s their right to freedom of speech, a pillar of our democracy.

So, why is it that our teachers are now being asked to get rid of Safe Space stickers in our classrooms? Shouldn’t students whose biological traits make them outside the norm be able to identify adults in their schools who are allies? What is so threatening to conservative Christians about that? 

If these stickers are to be removed, then we need to go a step further. There should be no outward declaration of faith or party affiliation at school, period. That means no crosses. No shirts with Bible verses. No political signs. No confederate flags. No “Let’s Go Brandon” or “Trump 2024” merchandise. (My child says all of these happen in her school.) That’s fair. 

You can’t have one set of rules declaring outward statements in support of “liberal” values outlawed, while statements in support of “conservative” values are condoned. That’s not freedom of speech. That’s not fair. 

You are bending to one set of voices. Voices who want our schools to be Christian. Voices who are responsible for those embarrassing signs littering our county roadways. May I once again remind you of the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment which declares the separation of Church and State, and these are public schools. Not all of your constituents are Christian. Not all of your students are, either. And, believe it or not, you can have strong morals and be a good human and not identify as Christian. 

As Thomas Jefferson stated, and as posted at the First Freedom Center in Downtown Richmond:

“The Constitutional freedom of religion is the most inalienable and sacred of all human rights.”

This includes one’s freedom from being forced to live by conservative Christian rules. 

I am in strong opposition of the removal of safe space stickers and the recently passed transgender bathroom policy. This is hate, not love. You must serve our community better than this. 

Note that I didn’t use the word “equitable,” as I was warned that this is a hot button word that would cause them to stop reading. Since when was “equitable” a dirty word? Sigh. 

I did receive a response. My school board member reiterated that it is the belief of the board that they make the schools safe for all children, not just a few. He also cited a recent school board policy passed, which states:

“The Hanover County School Board encourages employees to exercise all their rights as citizens, including involvement in political activities. Employees may solicit support for political candidates or political issues outside regular work hours, but should make clear that their views and actions are made as individuals and that they do not represent the views of the Hanover County Public Schools. No employee shall use his position in the school division to promote a political cause. No employee shall attempt to indoctrinate students by virtue of his position while students are under the supervision of the School Board, as is further outlined in Policy 6-1.10.

Political posters, announcements and flyers shall not be displayed on school bulletin boards or distributed through mail or messenger facilities. These restrictions shall not apply to classroom bulletin boards and displays being used to supplement instructional units.”

Here is my response to his email:

While I can appreciate the effort on behalf of the board to limit political influence by teachers, LGBTQ issues are not political. Children do not choose to identify as part of this group. They are born this way. And safe space stickers are declaring safe spaces for all. I simply cannot fathom that a simple message to a population of children who are more vulnerable to abuse, bullying, and depression should feel threatening to students who are straight. 

I hold two degrees in science: a BS in Biology and an MS in Physical Therapy. I learned that LGBTQ isses are biological. We are hard wired from birth with certain preferences as humans. 

As a healthcare provider, I am required to treat all of my patients equally and with respect. I do so gladly, keeping in mind that all of my patients are someone’s loved one. It’s an honor to care for other humans in their most vulnerable moments. 

While treating students equally may also be a goal of the school board, your messages to students and the community this year are clearly discriminatory toward the LGBTQ community. And since you passed a rule that will explicitly punish students who protest for any reason, you have also taken away their voice to address their concerns. 

This argument in defense of this particular policy addressing safe space stickers sounds a lot like “All LIves Matter” in response to the “Black Lives Matter” movement. Loosely translated, it means “Maintain the Status Quo.” Well, we need to do better than that. LGBTQ youth are more than 4 times as likely to attempt suicide than their peers. Hanover County is not immune to suicide among high shcool age children, and you know this. (One high school alone had two suicides last year.)

All of these new rules make Hanover schools less safe for vulnerable students. You have sent a signal for those who already feel negatively toward these students that they can discriminate, too, including members of our community. You cannot make these spaces feel safe only for straight, white, evangelical Christian students. Again, these are public schools. 

Thank you for reading my letter and attempting to address my concerns. 

I did receive another response. He reassured me that he read every word, took them to heart, and would like to work together to see how we can make our schools safe for all students.

Not a bad response. Perhaps I should set up a meeting and see how it goes. 

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The lead photo is an example of the safe space stickers in question by my county’s school board.

I had planned to post another vegan restaurant review today. But then this came up, so… Do you see this type of organized influence by conservative groups to influence your local governments? If so, I’d like to hear about it. 

As always, I hope you all are safe and healthy.

A Glimmer of Hope Post-Covid

Finally, I felt like I had a decent run. Seven weeks post-Covid, I’m still having some issues. I would say about 90% of the time, I have some kind of annoying chest discomfort. On the pain scale, I’d give it a one or two. But I’ve had times when it’s a three. And that’s just at rest. Running just feels so, so hard. But I’m immensely stubborn, so I trudge on through these training miles. 

I’m feeling less of the sensation that my lungs are full of cotton, but the lingering burning is concerning. I may have to finally go to the doctor. I should have saved the $200 I spent on an urgent care visit for them to tell me that I have Covid, and there’s nothing I can do, for a primary care visit for later. Sigh. It’s a shitty healthcare system when finances prevent you from seeking care. 

With my fellow Pink Nation coaches. I’m third from the right. Photo courtesy of Brian McDaniel.

But let’s get back to the positive. Our 16 miler on Sunday began with slightly cool temperatures and low humidity. The coaches actually huddled together to keep warm during our team announcements! It warmed up quickly, but was never hot. Our route was pretty, and hilly! We got to see amazing views of the city from Church Hill and then again from the Capital Trail. 

The Richmond skyline from the Virginia Capital Trail from Shiplock Park.

I felt really great until we hit Cary Street at about 9 miles. Until that point, I had been keeping up with the back of the middle of the pack runners. At least a mile of this road was uphill, and when it flattened out, we were either dodging cars in the street or navigating uneven brick sidewalks. Not my favorite situation, so there was lots of walking to avoid tripping. That pretty much killed my momentum. I plodded on, though. At the next to the last water stop, a friend caught up to me, and we walked/ran the remaining 3.5 miles. I was kind of grateful that his knee was bothering him so I could slow down. 

It felt like fate that our route ran us past the Virginia Holocaust Museum. You see, last week was Banned Books Week, and the ACLU of Virginia reblogged my post, Banning Books Closes Minds. I’m so honored that this happened! In that post, I talked about how reading the book The Diary of Anne Frank changed my life. I also talk about my experience as a physical therapist at a Jewish nursing facility and visiting this very museum. It was very appropriate to see this museum on my run. The universe is funny like that.

The Virginia Holocaust Museum in Richmond as seen from the Virginia Capital Trail.

So now, as I head into the last couple of weeks of training before my marathon at the end of October, I have a sliver of hope that it will go better than expected. But I still may go see the doctor…

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The lead photo is of me in front of a restaurant which was decorated for Richmond’s Pride Fest, which was held on Saturday.

Are you as excited about the arrival of fall as I am? 

As always, I hope you all are safe and healthy. 

India Garden: Vegan Restaurant Review

When touring college campuses, it’s customary to sample the local cuisine! On our recent visit to Virginia Tech, my daughter and I stopped in to India Garden for lunch. Highly recommended by our hosts, we were looking forward to eating here, as my daughter and I love Indian food!

The vegetarian/vegan and bread menu at India Garden

I was pleased to see that they have an extensive vegetarian and vegan menu. Everything was clearly labeled if it was vegan, which is so helpful! If you are dining with omnivores, there’s plenty to please them on the menu as well. 

My daughter and I ordered vegetable samosas as an appetizer. These were huge and had clearly been freshly prepared. The first bite made me pause, it was so good. Served with a tamarind sauce and filled with peas and potatoes, they were perfectly spiced and delicious. I would 100% order this again. 

The vegetable samosas

For the meal, I ordered the allu bangan, an eggplant and potato dish. However, what arrived was allu gobhi, which is the same dish, but with cauliflower. It was still good, but I think I would have preferred the eggplant. It had a tomato based sauce and was delicately spiced. I enjoyed this, but would order something different next time. Meals are served family style, so they also gave us a huge plate of basmati rice, and we couldn’t order a meal without garlic naan! The naan was easily the best I’ve ever had. My only regret is that we couldn’t really take leftovers with us, as we still had the campus tour ahead on our schedule. 

Allu Gobhi
Rice and Garlic Naan.

The staff here were so friendly, and the atmosphere was fancier than I expected. We went right after they opened, and we had the place to ourselves. They have a full bar with two televisions and ample space for large parties as well. 

If you’re looking for something different for a meal in Blacksburg, I highly recommend India Garden. Bring your appetites, because the portions are huge! With the amount of food we were served, we could have easily fed 3 people. 

Inside the restaurant.

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One of my favorite ways to explore a new city is by sampling local restaurants! Is this something you enjoy, too? The only exception is when I’m out of town for a race. I stick with what I know before the race, then explore after! 

As always, I hope you all are safe and healthy. 

Richmond VegFest 2022

I had planned to attend this year’s VegFest in Richmond. What I didn’t plan for was to be asked to speak at the event! But speak, I did. I was really honored when the event organizers reached out to me! 

My name on the board!

This happened sometime in June. They actually contacted me through Sports Backers, which is the organization I coach with, and my friend Mara just happened to be the one to open the email looking for Anne the Vegan! She got us connected!

They say you should talk about what you know, so I decided to tell my story about how I became a vegan, entitling my talk, “My Vegan Evolution.” I shared lots of thoughts I have already pondered on my blog. 

During my talk. Photo courtesy of the Richmond VegFest

I was so nervous about speaking in public in that large of a forum, but the organizers really put me at ease, and I somehow made it through! The first thing I noticed when I saw the main stage was that there was no lectern. I had notes typed on paper, and I really needed that! Luckily, there was a cocktail table nearby, and that worked really well. And the sound manager setup a mic for me. Crisis averted!

With local celebrity Mike Goldberg

I asked to speak in the first slot, and I was introduced by local meteorologist and VPM host Mike Goldberg! We actually have a mutual friend, so it was nice to make that connection!

During my talk, I was surprised to look into the audience and see several friends! I had a few running friends and a couple more who I met through social media. That was amazing! And even people I didn’t know seemed to nod their head in agreement with some statements and even laughed at my jokes! 

With a few of my running friends!
And with more fitness friends! Callie ran the Run Richmond 16.19k earlier that day!

After the talk, I stayed for the festival, obviously! I was able to greet my friends and thank them for coming! And then it was time to eat all the food and buy some merchandise. You know, the things you go to a festival for! The VegFest gifted me a shirt and poster from the event, and I bought another vegan themed shirt and a few buttons. 

As far as food goes, I was able to indulge a bit. I got bagel fries from Southern Spuds, which were French fries with vegan cheese and sour cream with everything but the bagel seasoning and green onions. So good! After all, I’ve never met a potato I didn’t like. I visited the Vegan Sweet Tooth and got an oatmeal cream pie to take home. It was so big, it took me 2 days to finish it! And I ordered a sampler plate from Govinda, which was really tasty Indian food. I also couldn’t leave the festival without getting a serving of Blue Ridge boucha! I met lots of new people just eating at one of many community tables. Always fun!

Bagel fries from Southern Spud
Small sampler plate from Govinda
The huge oatmeal cream pie from My Vegan Sweet Tooth

But by mid afternoon, I was ready to go home. This introvert was peopled out, but in the best way. I also learned that speaking in public isn’t so scary. I tried to remember the lessons I learned as a theater student in high school, just trying to pace my words and to pause to breathe. I would absolutely do this again! Many thanks to the Richmond VegFest for giving me a platform to share my story.

Blue Ridge Bucha

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Have you ever done any public speaking? Do you have any tips to make it easier?

Do you have a vegetarian/vegan festival where you live? I’d love to hear about it!

As always, I hope you all are safe and healthy.

Bittersweet…

This is how it feels when your kids grow into young adults. I can honestly say that there’s been something to enjoy during each stage of raising my girls. But we are quickly approaching a time where they will no longer need me or my husband, and that makes me feel both happy and sad simultaneously.

I’ve watched my older daughter leave for college and flourish. She is currently majoring in psychology with a minor in women’s and gender studies. As much stress and pressure as she puts on herself, she has still managed to do amazing work, making good grades and earning scholarships. Choosing a school was pretty straightforward for her, and I’m really happy she chose my alma mater! She’s found joy in the small school setting, where she can be a big fish in a small pond. In addition to holding leadership positions in the Honors College, she is now also on the Honor Council, where she gets to hear cases about students who have been accused of violating the Honor Code. She’s also involved in a research project with one of her professors. It’s safe to say that she is making the most of her college experience!

Longwood at night

Now that my other daughter is a senior in high school, we have been touring colleges. She wants to major in environmental science, and her dream job is to be a park ranger. She is having a bit more difficulty choosing schools than her sister did. She loves Longwood, where her sister is, but is intrigued by Old Dominion University for its size and science programs and is completely smitten with the beauty and buzz of the campus at Virginia Tech. She has two STEM day visits planned with ODU and Longwood, so I’m hoping those experiences will help her decide. And I can’t believe that she will be gone in less than a year!

I will lose my adventure buddy. Especially during the pandemic, my younger daughter and I would take day trips to the mountains to escape the stress of being stuck in the house, as the outdoors were not off limits. 

The view from Carter Mountain in Charlottesville

Our last college tour was Virginia Tech last weekend. We went on a whirlwind adventure of the state in 2 days, arriving via Charlottesville, spending the night with family, and returning through Farmville to visit my older daughter. One of our favorite places is Carter Mountain in Charlottesville, so we stopped there to buy apples and a gift for our hosts! And we had a brief visit at Longwood for dinner and a night tour. 

I’m super proud of my kids. I have never had to push them to achieve. They just do this of their own drive and desire to succeed. I’m looking forward to seeing what they do with their lives. This may be the most challenging phase of parenthood… watching your babies leave the nest. 

With both of my girls in Farmville

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Lead photo is of my younger daughter overlooking the drillfield at Virginia Tech.

Anyone have any advice for a soon to be empty nester? 

As always, I hope you all are safe and healthy.

Find Your Team

Yesterday, it was my turn to give the “benediction” for our marathon training team. We are the church of the Sunday long run!

I had already written it, but then we learned about what happened to Eliza. I had to talk about her. Here’s what I said:

Benediction 9/11/22

This week, I know that safety is on the minds of many of you as we mourn the loss of Eliza Fletcher. She is us. We are her. The running community will stand together to be safe and protect each other from social stigmas about how we are supposed to participate in this sport and from those who may wish to harm us while we are simply living our lives. 

More than ever, I’m grateful for this team. 

There’s an African proverb that says, “If you want to run fast, run alone. If you want to run far, run together”

Reflecting on my running journey, I know I wouldn’t be here without this community, and especially without this team. 

While I was sick with Covid, I made it my special project to watch the entire series of Parks and Recreation. I know. Quite the accomplishment! 

But I found myself inspired by Amy Pohler’s character, Leslie Knope, because of her idealism and drive to change the world. And this quote from her encapsulates so much of what I feel about this team:

“Now go find your team. Get to work. Whatever that work is that you find worth doing. Do it, and find some people to love who’ll do it with you.”

We may not believe that we are changing the world by running marathons, but we are inspiring others to get active, make time for wellness, and welcoming new runners to join this community. 

May we always remember and appreciate how lucky we are to do this. 

This is our team. This is our mission. I love you guys…

ALL GO. NO QUIT. COWBOY UP!

14 miles with my friend Anna!

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The lead photo is how we traditionally huddle for the benediction, a photo pre-Covid, with Coach Blair leading. We are still spreading out a bit.

That last line in caps is what we say together. It revs us up for the journey ahead. On Sunday, that was 14 miles. Time well spent with a great friend, telling stories, processing traumas, and spontaneously breaking out into song!

As always, I hope you all are safe and healthy.

Why does society still blame the victim?

I went for a 7 mile run yesterday, per my marathon training plan. Did I think about safety? I always do. I can’t afford not to. I’m a woman. I also thought about the abduction and death of a female runner as I ran. And I ran alone. On a college campus. And I couldn’t escape the irony of my accidental path on which I ran. Eliza Fletcher was abducted and killed while out on an early morning run near the University of Memphis campus in Tennessee last week.

Comments on news stories relating to the horrific crime are, well, less than kind to her. These ranged from questioning why she dared to run alone, to run when it was dark, and to run in just a sports bra. But why are we blaming her? Why aren’t we asking the bigger question, which is why do some men feel like they have the right to a woman’s body? 

As a female runner, I totally get the mentality and drive to get up early, before the sun has the opportunity to drive temperatures up to even more uncomfortable levels, before work, and before the rest of your family awakens, just to make sure you can tick off that box in your training manual for that next race. I am this woman.

But to question this mentality? Clearly some of her biggest critics are not runners. And the simple solution from most was to buy a treadmill. Some of us, and by us, I mean women who are runners, don’t have the means to purchase a treadmill for personal use. Some of us don’t have a gym membership. And some of us simply prefer to run outdoors. And when it’s hella hot? We will wear whatever we damn well please to beat the heat. 

Why our culture is partly to blame

But let’s go back to this larger question. We should never blame the victim. Eliza was running. That’s it. We have a culture in America that is patriarchal in nature. This absolutely stems from teaching purity culture, one aspect of which is to tell girls that if they expose skin, it tempts boys and men and their lustful nature. That girls are responsible for the behavior of boys. That boys and men simply cannot control their desires, nor are they expected to do so. Even in my county’s sex ed curriculum in the public school system, with regard to consent, they highlight a teaching objective that places the responsibility of saying no on the girl, not the boy. And being raised this way promotes the idea that girls and women are always responsible for what happens to them. This is wrong. Yet it’s a foundation of American culture. 

Stripping women of their bodily autonomy further perpetuates this patriarchal culture. The law in many states has deemed us incapable of making decisions about what happens to our bodies. For some men, this affirms what they already believe: that women are theirs for the taking. Just take a look at some quotes about rape and abortion from some of our male lawmakers. 

If you are a regular reader of my blog, you may recall a post I wrote right after the reversal of Roe vs. Wade, and that weekend, the female runners on my marathon training team experienced a huge uptick in incidents of harassment. It didn’t seem coincidental. And these were women running in a very large group, among male teammates, and doing everything right. 

Running alone and taking measures to stay safe

I love running alone. I enjoy running with a group, too. But my time alone is like meditating. And sometimes my schedule doesn’t allow for meeting up with others for a safer group run. So, yes, I take that risk of going on a solo run so I can fit in my training. Running alone isn’t “asking” for it. Running in just my sports bra isn’t to tempt men; it just means I’m hot. I have to alter my route when men are working on something in my intended path. I carry pepper spray. I let people know where I’m going and when to expect me back. I take my phone with me. I don’t run with earbuds. I have to be hypervigilant. How many (white) men have to think of these things when they go for a run? They don’t. Because they don’t have to. 

The pepper spray I run with

Sitting on the fence

We live in a society that wants women to be all kinds of things, just not too much of any of them. Be pretty, but not too pretty. Be nice, but not too nice. Be smart, but not smart enough to embarrass a man. Be assertive, but not bossy. Be sexy, but not too sexy. Work to help your household, but not so much that you can’t be a good mother. We’ve been asked to sit on a fence for our entire lives, with which side of that fence we lean toward up to debate by someone else, and we are supposed to listen to the judgment of others and accommodate accordingly. But I’m done with sitting on fences. 

Stop blaming the victim

This should not be our world, but it is. It’s 2022, and our society still blames the victim. As a survivor of childhood sexual assault, I take victim blaming personally. This needs to end. We need to change our culture. Women are tired of feeling like targets. We are sick of taking every precaution advised, and still being harassed. We are exhausted from teaching our daughters these same principles, then being worried sick when we send them out into the world. We are all Eliza. And we are not OK. 

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I realize that the media prioritizes telling the stories of white victims of crime over tragedies involving people of color. And I also realize that Black men do not have the same freedom to run for exercise as white men. These facts are not lost on me.

And those of you who think reversing Roe vs. Wade has limited impact on women, especially those outside of childbearing age or who follow societal guidelines on saving themselves for marriage, you are wrong. And I’m just scratching the surface here. But those who don’t follow these “rules” are no less deserving of safety. 

Just last month, a woman was murdered and dumped on the side of the road not too far from my home. The man who murdered her was her boyfriend. He was an officer in the Navy. Just the day before, he had taken her to get an abortion, and she couldn’t follow through with the procedure. Clearly, he didn’t want a child, so he killed her instead. I frequently drive past the cross marking the place where her body was found. Watch for murders like these to happen more often, especially in parts of our country where abortion is illegal. The leading cause of death among pregnant women in the US is actually homicide. 

The foundation of sex education in this country is teaching purity culture in evangelical churches and abstinence based curriculum in most public school programs. These teachings spill into our every day discussions about the morality of women. Shaming women and girls becomes a part of our culture. And taking away the basic human right to bodily autonomy is another signal to the world that the bodies of women are not their own. I fear that this will only increase the instances of violent acts against women. 

Women deserve to live their lives without fear. 

As always, I hope you all are safe and healthy.

Chicken Scratch Salad

My younger daughter is my sous chef, and we love to get creative in the kitchen, especially when we look in the pantry and fridge for items to throw together to make a new recipe. These make-something-out-of-seemingly-nothing meals are sometimes our finest, as is the case with this dish.

As we were mixing this up, my daughter decided to call this dish chicken scratch because its appearance reminded her of the feed we used to give our chickens! Although there’s no way it tastes like what we fed our chickens, I could see her point!

This salad is light, yet filling. You can literally add any veggies you have to make this dish your own and to use up whatever you might have in your fridge, but to me, the star of the show was the mixed chopped olives we used. That was one of those grocery store purchases that was a somewhat impulse buy, but I’m so glad we bought it! 

Without further ado, here’s the recipe:

Chicken Scratch Salad

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup couscous, dry, and prepared according to directions
  • 1 can Great Northern Beans, drained and rinsed (can sub chickpeas or white kidney beans if you like)
  • 1 cup green peas, blanched (either fresh or frozen; you can blanch these by placing in a glass measuring cup, cover with water, and microwave for 2 minutes for fresh peas, a bit longer for frozen; drain and rinse after blanching)
  • ½ red onion, finely diced
  • ½ cup sundried tomatoes, reconstituted (cover with water in glass measuring cup and microwave for 2 minutes) and chopped, OR 1 cup diced tomatoes (any kind)
  • ½ cup olive salad (we used Mezzetta Italian Olive Salad, but you could easily sub an olive tapenade)
  • Homemade vinaigrette. Mix:
    • 2 T olive oil
    • ½ cup apple cider vinegar (we like Bragg’s)
    • 1 tsp dried parsley (we like LIfehouse brand)
    • 1 tsp seasoning salt
    • Salt and pepper to taste

Directions: Mix all ingredients and enjoy! Store leftovers in the fridge for up to one week.

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Although Labor Day typically marks the official end of summer, we all know that Mother Nature will keep up the heat for a bit longer. This salad is also a great one to prep for lunches on the go! If you try it, take a photo, post it on Instagram, and tag me @annecreates!

As always, I hope you all are safe and healthy.

Are you Ready for Fall Running?

Hallelujah! We are almost done with summer heat and humidity! It seemed especially brutal this year, right? As we watch the days get shorter and the leaves start to turn, it’s finally time to start preparing for cooler temperatures. I can’t wait to go for a run on that first crisp fall day of the season!

If you’re like me, your running wardrobe may be in need of a bit of a refresh. Now, I’m cheap, so I hate to spend a ton of money on running clothes. Instead, I look for practical items in big box stores and discount stores like Ross, Marshall’s, and TJMaxx. But there are some things to keep in mind while you’re shopping.

My biggest item in need of updating were my running bras. I have been wearing the Victoria’s Secret Incredible bra for years. I loved that they were always included in their semi-annual sales, and I could reliably purchase a couple every six months or so for around $15. But, to my dismay, they stopped making this style. I don’t think I have a single one in my collection that is less than 4 years old. And, ladies, you know that’s too old! They no longer fit well, and cause hot spots with almost every run. 

My sports bras serve double duty because I also wear these under my scrubs for work. If there’s anything the pandemic has taught me, it’s that I need to be prepared to sweat while providing patient care. Besides having a physically demanding job, I also may be required to donn PPE to work with certain patients. I can’t stay comfortable in a regular bra when I’m layered with plastic gowns and face shields!

The Avia molded cup sports bra from Walmart.

My hunt for an affordable sports bra has been long and challenging. I was ready to give in and invest in a $75 “real” running bra, the thought of which nearly killed me. But I lucked out during a recent trip to Walmart. I found a great, supportive sports bra that retails $13.98! I bought one to try, and I loved it. So I bought a few more online. They were on sale for $11.96! They have new patterns that have arrived in stores for fall which retail a bit higher at $15.98. Still a bargain. 

This bra is made by Avia. It has molded cups, padded straps, and has ventilation built in. Although slightly less supportive than my industrial strength Victoria’s Secret bras, they do the job, and are amazingly comfortable. When I’m wearing my hydration pack, the straps of the pack provide the added support I need for long runs. 

Don’t be afraid to try bras at big box stores like Walmart and Target, especially if you are of an average cup size. You may be able to find something that works well, and something affordable enough to buy a few, not just one or two. If you have time, try on a few styles, and do a jump test in the fitting room, making sure they provide enough support for the high intensity activity of running. 

Now, I hardly ever buy running shirts. That’s because I have enough technical singlets from my running teams and races that I’m never in need! But do avoid full cotton shirts. They will not wick away sweat!

Pants are a different story. I currently have 2 pairs of capris that I actually like to run in, and 2 pairs of run tights. The rest of my pants are just not comfortable for running; I save these for strength training. So, I’m in need of a couple pairs. 

Don’t get me wrong. I would love to walk into my local run shop, Athleta, or Lululemon and buy whatever I want. Alas, I can’t afford this luxury. So I look to discount stores instead, often finding some decent name brand items there, plus lesser known brands that are of good quality, too. 

You can find some great deals at discount stores. You just need to know what to look for! I always look at the seams. First, the fewer the better. The more seams there are, the more opportunities for chafing. Second, look at the type of seam. You want flat seams, not raised. Raised seams flip back and forth with every step, and after many miles of that, will definitely cause some hot spots. Third, avoid pants with lots of panels, again, because of the number of seams! Another reliable source for good, affordable running gear is Old Navy. I have several pair of bike shorts and really like their leggings, too. It’s also worthwhile to try on the merchandise before you buy it. Again, the jump test really helps, just to make sure the pants will stay in place!

An example of a raised seam. These will flip and roll with each stride while running, causing chafing after many miles.
An example of flat seams. These don’t cause the irritation that raised seams can. Look for seams like these!

I ended up buying this pair of Under Armor leggings from Ross for about $20. The seams are super flat, and the colors are awesome! I have a surprising amount of neon yellow shirts and jackets that match the neon in these pants, so I thought these would be more fun to wear with yellow than just plain black.

This is the pair of leggings with the flat seams above, made by Under Armour.

The one thing I will pay full price for are my running shoes. I have to take care of my feet! If you’ve been running in the same shoes since spring, it’s likely time for new ones. I use my Garmin app to track mileage on my shoes. 

I absolutely recommend checking out your local running store to get fitted for shoes. It’s best if they do a running gait analysis, not a walking one. They will then recommend shoes based on your gait mechanics, and it makes a difference! If you’re in the metro Richmond or Fredericksburg, VA area, I highly recommend Lucky Road Run Shop. They even have a rewards program, giving you $13 off your next pair!

As we start new routines with back to school and the temperatures make their eventual transition to cooler days, take inventory of your fall/winter gear. Replace what you need to! Remember, you don’t have to spend a ton of money. You can find great items in big box stores and discount stores, saving your budget for more important gear like shoes! It will be worth taking the time to find gear that fits well and makes you feel excited to get out and run!

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The lead photo is of the Virginia Capital Trail in October.

If you’re interested, I made reels about both the bras and shopping for running pants on Instagram. My handle is @annecreates.

As always, I hope you all are safe and healthy.

Ashland Half Marathon 2022: Race Recap

Running this race 3 weeks post-Covid, I had unrealistic expectations that I’d be pleasantly surprised by my performance. However, my only unexpected blessings came in the form of support from my friends on the course. This race went about how I thought it would. It sucked. I took the entire 3.5 hours, and I was one of the last to finish. 

However, my race began with my team, the Pink Nation. We had an amazing benediction. And, to our surprise, the real bathrooms near the sports fields where we parked on the campus of Randolph-Macon were actually open. No porta potties for us! After a final bathroom stop, we lined up on the start line. I had tried to conserve energy by sitting as much as possible, parking my butt on the curb until the final moments before the beginning of the race.

With a few of my friends before the race.

As soon as the race began, I felt like I had to pee again. This is common when racing, actually. My friend and fellow Pink Nation coach Malerie exclaimed, “That’s not real. It’s just anxiapee!” Ha! She needs to trademark that expression. 

By the end of the first mile, I already knew this would not be my day. There would be no magical recovery from Covid, no stunning comeback, no matching my last normal half marathon time. There were lots of walk breaks. My friends Malerie and new friend Amy kept me company, seemingly unconcerned about time. We simply took “intuitive walk breaks,” that is, stopping to walk whenever it seemed fit to do so. 

I was determined to finish, no matter how much the race sucked. That’s how I am. I paid good money for this race, and I was going to earn that medal! Even over each rolling hill of Yowell road, the extreme camber of Blanton Road (route 666, by the way), and the never ending uphill mile 11 that is Blunts Bridge road, I was stubborn. Even with the brutal heat and humidity. Even as my legs complained, locking up after so many weeks of relative inactivity and unhappy with my sudden surge of physical effort, I was not going to let this race beat me. 

One of the route signs on Blanton Road.

Another Pink Nation coach, Chris, ran about a mile with us near the beginning of the race, and then met us before that big uphill at mile 11. He was a welcome sight! He ran with us all the way to the finish. We actually had to pass our tailgate party on our way to the finish line, and the cheers of our teammates were awesome!

I crossed the finish line and promptly sat down. My friend Maria gave me my medal. And for the second time after a race, my friend Selina rescued me with a towel. After the ultra I ran in December, it was a warm towel. This time, it was a smaller, ice towel! She was a finish line volunteer for both races. Needless to say, it’s amazing to have great friends who volunteer at races!

We finally made our way to the food tent, picking up not only the usual fare of water and pretzels, but also chips, an applesauce pouch, Hanover tomatoes, and home grown golden delicious apples! The apple was the best I’ve had in a long time. And I’m still working on that tomato!

If I hadn’t signed up for this race months ago, I certainly wouldn’t have chosen to run it. But I was not going to let Covid spoil yet another summer plan, just like it did to my summer vacation. So run it, I did. I earned my swag, which was awesome, by the way. And I may never run this race again. 

After the race.

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Yes, I say I’ll never run this race again. Every year. And yet, I still sign up for this misery. I keep hoping I’ll get to run during one of those amazing early fall-ish days that we sometimes get in August. I really do think that my participation in this race jinxes the weather for this event!

As always, I hope you all are safe and healthy.