Square Life Round World

I'm navigating through this round world while living a square life, and it fits exactly as it should.

St. Jude Walk/Run to End Childhood Cancer

September is Childhood Cancer Awareness Month. All month long, you may have seen people changing their profile pictures on social media to #ShowYourGold or even superheroes.  

Showing my gold


On September 19 and 26, St. Jude Walk/Run to End Childhood Cancer events happened all over the country to coincide with Childhood Cancer Awareness Month. I participated in the Memphis event, and it was unlike any 5k I’ve ever done. 

First of all, it was a walk/run, with an emphasis on walk. This made it perfect for beginners and even people who aren’t active at all. There was none of the “fast people in the front, slow people in the back” business. It was not about racing. It was all about everyone coming together for one reason and one reason only: to raise awareness for childhood cancer. 

There were also so many people participating in teams and staying together as a team. Many teams had matching shirts made for the event. All that unification was a really cool thing to see. 

There was so much gold, too! Gold signs, flags, pom poms, headbands, shoelaces and even socks were everywhere! My floor made gold and black tutus to sell as a fundraiser so those were all over the course as well. I even wore a tutu for the first time. 

Traffic was crazy getting to the event so I knew the turnout was going to be huge.  

Stuck in traffic but I couldn’t wait to get there!


Despite allowing myself what I thought was more than enough time, I got there just in time for a photo with my immediate work team before heading to the start. 

My work team

I also got a quick Periscope broadcast in (@myglasssneaker). 

 

Ready to Walk/Run

The weather was great. It was a mild, overcast day, although more humid than I expected. I absolutely love downtown Memphis courses. 

I love running by the famous M bridge.

The scenery is gorgeous, although I always forget how hilly it is.  

Does this look like a hill? Because, it definitely is one.

 

The Pyramid, which is now home to Bass Pro. Except, the hospital and finish line is in the opposite direction. Shouldn’t we be heading the other way?

 

Finally, we are heading back toward the hospital!

   

The finish is in sight.

As a chronic back-of-the-packer, I really enjoyed being with the pack for the entire course. Once I was done, I stuck around for a few minutes at the finish line to cheer people on. I also did another quick Periscope broadcast from the finish line. 

It was a great day, and I’m sure it will be even bigger next year. Did you participate in an event in your area? 

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Whole Foods Market Salud Blackberry Farm Dinner

This past Saturday night, I attended a special benefit for the Cooper Young Farmers Market here in Memphis. Whole Foods in Memphis celebrated the grand opening of their new Salud cooking school with this event presented by Blackberry Farm.

Blackberry Farm cookbooks

Blackberry Farm cookbooks

Salud at Whole Foods

Salud at Whole Foods

If you’ve never heard of Blackberry Farm, it is one of the nation’s best luxury hotels and is a working farm in the foothills of the Smoky Mountains in East Tennessee. I had the pleasure of staying there several years ago and found it to be the most glorious place on earth I’ve ever experienced.

The dinner was done as a demonstration where the chefs prepare the meal in front of you and you eat what they have prepared. I knew because it was Blackberry Farm it was going to be special so I was so excited to attend. I arrived about 15 minutes early since I really didn’t know what to expect. I saw chefs in the room making lots of preparations for us but we weren’t allowed in just yet.

Let me in!

Let me in!

After most people had arrived, they invited us over to a section they had blocked off with tables for a sort of cocktail party type experience. We had our choice of Chardonnay or Merlot, which they explained were available at the store. Wait! What? Wine available at a grocery store? In Tennessee? Yep! They sell it through their Cork and Carry program, a loophole to the Tennessee liquor laws making wine sales in grocery stores illegal. Because they have the BBQ Shack restaurant in the store, they can sell wine by the bottle, but you have to drink some of it before you can take it home with you. Sounds logical! (insert sarcasm)

Wine at Whole Foods

Wine at Whole Foods

Along with the wine, passed appetizers were available. My favorite was the grilled cheese made with Benton’s bacon, Blackberry Farm Magnolia cheese, and Blackberry Farm apple and onion jam.

It may not look like much but this Blackberry Farm Grilled Cheese was a fave!

It may not look like much but this Blackberry Farm Grilled Cheese was a fave!

It was delish! I was also happy to know many of the Blackberry Farm products are available at Whole Foods so I can make this sandwich at home if I want.

Blackberry Farm's line of products is available at Whole Foods.

Blackberry Farm’s line of products is available at Whole Foods.

I also enjoyed the Blackberry Farm deep-fried bread and butter pickles with their J & S sauce as well as their buckwheat pancake with fried sunny side up quail egg and their own salami.

Deep fried bread and butter pickles with J & S Sauce

Deep fried bread and butter pickles with J & S Sauce

Buckwheat pancake with sunny side up quail egg and salami

Buckwheat pancake with sunny side up quail egg and salami

After we had all had our fill of the appetizers, we were invited into Salud for the remainder of the meal. At each place setting was a nice take-away for us, a jar of one of Blackberry Farm’s delectable spreads and a measuring spoon from Salud.

Gift for me

Gift for me

Our chefs for the evening were Josh Feathers, one of the head chefs at the farm, Ryan Burger, the cheesemaker at the farm, and Cameron Roszkowski, also a chef at the farm.

Cameron Roszkowski, Josh Feathers, and Ryan Burger, all chefs at Blackberry Farm

Cameron Roszkowski, Josh Feathers, and Ryan Burger, all chefs at Blackberry Farm

Most of the cooking demos I’ve been to involve the presenter showing a few steps of the dish while servers bring out pre-made and pre-plated versions of the dish. So, you are never really sure who made it. Not here! The chefs actually cooked and plated the courses right in front of us so we knew we were eating their food.

Chefs plating one of our courses

Chefs plating one of our courses

These were highly talented, well-educated, well established chefs, and they were right in front of me, cooking for ME! The food geek in me was elated!

The first course was a vegetable “pasta”, in quotes because the “noodles” were actually strips of veggies.

Vegetable "pasta" in cheese broth with mushroom spread on toast

Vegetable “pasta” in cheese broth with mushroom spread on toast

They were presented with a cheese broth, which was surprisingly not cheesy at all, just very flavorful, and a toast with their mushroom spread. It was so delicious! This course was paired with a Pinot Grigio. Next was the fish course. Baked salmon rubbed with kale pesto, raw kale mixed with a lemon olive oil, carrot puree, and salmon caviar was presented.

Kale pesto rubbed salmon

Kale pesto rubbed salmon

As you can see, I hated it!

What was left of the salmon

What was left of the salmon. All of my plates looked like this.

The salmon was paired with the Chardonnay. Up next was braised short ribs with a fried fingerling potato, tomato relish, sautéed kale and a balsamic reduction.

Beef Short Rib

Beef Short Rib

The chef spent a great deal of time explaining how the tomato relish is made. Their treatment of the most simple foods, their respect for food, and their passion for it really turns it into something special. It was insanely delicious! This was paired with a red blend. Finally, dessert was presented. A ball of their own soft brebis cheese rolled in candied pecans, served with a berry consomme and figs ended the meal perfectly.

A perfect fruit and cheese dessert

A perfect fruit and cheese dessert

The candied pecans were the star! They prepared them by boiling raw pecans first, then mixing one part powdered sugar with 2 parts pecans, THEN deep-frying them for about 5 minutes. I could have eaten an entire bowl of the pecans themselves.

Sadly, all good things must come to an end and with that, the night was over. But not before I snagged a few pics with the chefs!

Me with the chefs

Me with the chefs

The women in their lives are some lucky ladies!

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My Quest For Half Fanatics Part Three–Herb Parsons Trail Half Marathon

In case you missed it, parts 1 and 2 were about the Memphis Greenline Half and the runDisney Wine and Dine Half, respectively.  Part 3 was supposed to be about the Memphis St. Jude Half but Mother Nature intervened with an ice storm that caused the race to be cancelled.

Just to review, the basic Half Fanatic requirement is 3 half marathons in 90 days.  Since the first of 3 was on October 13, I’d have until around January 13, to get the third.  With this in mind, I spent the week after the cancelled race scouring the interwebs for anything within driving distance that would help me reach my goal.  I came up empty and resigned myself to just having to try again later.

Then fate intervened, or something like that.  Right before the new year, one of my local friends posted in a Facebook running group we both are members of that she was doing this local trail half on Sunday, January 5, so she could “moon up” this year in Half Fanatics (you can achieve higher levels of membership by completing more half marathons in a year, among other things).  I was elated!  I was going to get to be a Half Fanatic after all!  I completely ignored the part about it being a trail run.  I don’t have trail shoes.  I’m not trail trained.  I’m not sure I’ve ever even set foot on anything that can be considered a bona fide trail for longer than maybe a quarter of a mile.  I had no idea what I was in for.  I also completely ignored the weather, until after I had registered.  Pretty much as soon as I got the email confirmation of my registration, it was only then that I thought to check the forecast.  Freezing rain and snow.  Here we go again!

As the weather forecast continued to materialize over the course of the rest of the week, here’s how things were shaping up: a balmy mid to upper 40s at the start with a cold front moving in throughout the morning, bringing rain and wind, changing over to freezing rain and snow by early afternoon.  Cool!  I’ll be way done by early afternoon, I thought.  And that’s pretty much how the weather went down.  Except I wasn’t done by early afternoon.  See, here’s what happens when 30 mile per hour winds combine with pouring rain and falling temps in the mid to lower 30s within a half hour of race start:  the trail gets muddy.  You get soaked.  No amount of layered wicking clothing can keep you anywhere close to dry in that kind of rain.  A muddy trail without being trail trained and having no trail shoes means you fall down in the mud.  A lot.  Falling in the mud means you become muddy on top of being wet.  And sore.  There were parts of the trail where I literally had to climb up hills while holding on to tree trunks.  Another runner had to pull me out of the mud at one point, otherwise I might still be lying there (I kid). 

This hill was more steep than it looks.  It's where I took my first muddy tumble.

This hill was more steep than it looks. It’s where I took my first muddy tumble.

Other parts were so slippery I had to hang on to trees, almost swinging from trunk to trunk to keep moving forward while trying to stay vertical.  Also, the trail was not marked very well, and I thought I was lost more than once or twice.

Where do I go?

Where do I go?

 

I could go on and on about how miserable it was and how long it took me to finish, but I think you probably get the idea.  It wasn’t all bad, though.  The aid stations, although there were only 3 (well, 2 but we passed one twice), were very well stocked.  Of course you would expect water and electrolyte of some sort but there was also sodas, cookies, chips, m and ms, and chocolate candy bars.  This was much welcomed because I did not anticipate taking as long as I did to finish, and I was out of fuel by the halfway mark.  The sugar and salty snacks helped tremendously!  Also, Herb Parsons is a beautiful lake area, and had it not been pouring rain, I think it would have been very peaceful and enjoyable.

Herb Parsons Lake

Herb Parsons Lake

I’m so glad I did it, though.  Not only did I reach my goal of becoming a Half Fanatic, I found an inner strength I didn’t know I had.

Some of my clothes did not make it.

Some of my clothes did not make it.

 

I finished!

I finished!

I could have quit at three points in the race, but I didn’t.  Quitting is just not an option as far as I’m concerned.  Would I do it again?  Not in those conditions.  I would do a trail again, though, even that trail.  I would incorporate trails into my regular workouts and work my way up in trail mileage, however.  I completely underestimated how much more challenging a trail can be.  I would also get some trail shoes.

What’s the most challenging race you’ve ever finished?  What did you learn?

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My Quest For Half Fanatics Part One–Memphis Greenline Half

Back in the summer when I was figuring out my race schedule and training plan for the rest of 2013, it occurred to me that on the weekend I had a 12.5 mile planned, there was a half marathon starting and finishing in the very park where I’d be doing my 12.5 and covered much of the same ground I’d be covering anyway.  When I also realized that it, along with the other 2 half marathons I already had planned, would qualify me for Half Fanatics, it became a no-brainer.  A few clicks later, I was registered.

Greenline Half Marathon

Greenline Half Marathon

So Half Fanatics is kind of like a club for people who like to run half marathons.  The minimum requirement to qualify for membership is either finishing 2 half marathons in a 2-week period or 3 in 90 days.  I never really thought that I would get an opportunity to qualify so when I saw that I did, I jumped on it.  I also became really excited about it.

Half Fanatics

Half Fanatics

On October 13, 2013, the day had come for me to begin my quest.

Flat me for Greenline Half

Flat me for Greenline Half

The day started out with fairly good running weather.  It was foggy, so it was humid but temps were not too bad.  Even once the fog lifted it was overcast for a while.  It was right around mile 6 before the clouds lifted and the sun came out.

I am one who obsesses over weather.  That is the one thing that can ruin my run faster than anything, even faster than hydration or nutrition issues.  I don’t do well in heat and sun so as long as it’s overcast, I am usually ok.  If the sun comes out and temps start rising, I can have problems and they can happen fast!  So the sun was not a welcome sight to me that day.  By mile 7 I had abandoned the run for the most part and resigned myself to walking only.  However, here is where I came to appreciate what I would consider my favorite part of the race.  National Guardsmen were riding the course with us on ATVs.  I guess one of them could see that I was having a hard time and kept circling around me, talking to me and encouraging me.  It felt like I had my own private escort, and it helped me so much.  Before long, I was right back at running.  Somewhere between 8 and 9 my runner’s high kicked in and my legs just kind of did their thing without me having to worry about it.  At mile 11 I was struggling again.  By mile 12 I was just ready for it to be over and 1.1 miles later, it was.

Overall, this was definitely not my favorite race, and it has nothing to do with struggling in the sun for a few miles.  It was a very small race, less than 200 runners.  While I appreciate a course that is not crowded, when you have 200 runners spread out over 13.1 miles, not only is it not crowded, it is pretty much empty.  So, except for the National Guard escorts (which I LOVED), it really felt more like a training run with course support than a race.  It was also boring.  The only real scenic areas were in the park and along the Memphis Greenline.  I’m on those trails all the time anyway so it wasn’t new for me.  The spectator support was non-existent.  We went through a few residential areas but no one seemed interested.

It wasn’t all bad, though.  Like I said, I loved having the Guard riding along side me at times.

It was fun having these guys ride along side us on the course.

It was fun having these guys ride along side us on the course.

The awards were really cool, too, for the winners.  I also really loved the start.  Again, it was foggy out, and instead of a vocalist to perform the national anthem, there was a violinist.  It was beautiful and serene.

The start was very peaceful.

The start was very peaceful.

Finishers did get a medal, which is always fun.

The finisher's medal features a buffalo, symbolic of the park.

The finisher’s medal features a buffalo, symbolic of the park.

The after party was fun, too, with a band and Mexican food.  The only bummer about that is they ran out of plates so I didn’t get any food.  A funny story about that is what happened as I was leaving.  I had given up on food and started walking the quarter-mile back to my car, all downhill.  I was almost to my car when I heard a guy behind me trying to get my attention.  He ran all the way down the hill to tell me they had found more plates.  Bless his heart!  I thanked him but there was no food in the world that was worth walking back up that hill for.

The most unique feature of this race is that it is the only green certified sporting event in the state of Tennessee.  Everything about this race is designed to reduce the carbon footprint compared to that of a traditional event.  The tech shirt we got as part of our registration is actually made from recycled milk cartons and feels so soft.

The race tech shirt is made from recycled milk cartons.

They asked that we bring our own water bottles to cut down on race waste, which I always do anyway.  They had battery and cell phone recycling stations at the start/finish line area.  The awards that I mentioned earlier were made by locals artists out of reclaimed wood from the park, and were really neat.

The awards were made by local artists and were really cool!

The awards were made by local artists and were really cool!

Would I do it again?  Maybe if I needed a training run of around that distance at around the same time, as was the case this time.  As a stand-alone or target event, I wouldn’t recommend it unless a person needs a race with virtually no crowds.  I do hope the event continues for many years to come.  It raises funds for the Shelby Farms Greenline, which is important to me.

With that, I was one-third of the way toward my goal of becoming a Half Fanatic.

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St. Jude Memphis Marathon Weekend 2013-The Race That Wasn’t

Memphis does not do winter weather well.  Any threat of winter weather usually turns into a non-event, but even the hint of some sort of frozen precipitation sends the entire city into a tailspin.  That happened this weekend, and the St. Jude Memphis Marathon Weekend was cancelled.

When December 7 first appeared on the 10 day forecast, it was supposed to be in the 40s at race time, warming up to the 50s throughout the day, perfect!  Every day after that, it looked worse and worse.  Even though it was in the 70s here on Wednesday, it was predicted to be a historical ice storm.  By Thursday, schools and events were being cancelled all over the city, yet it was still in the 50s.  The SJMMW event directors kept saying the race would go on as planned unless the course was deemed to be unsafe.  Friday came, the day of the epic ice storm.  Yes, it rained pretty much all day long.  Yes temps hovered around freezing.  Yes, ice accumulated in trees and bushes.  However, the roads remained clear.

Ice accumulations thwarted race plans.

Ice accumulations thwarted race plans.

I was in good spirits as I headed to the Heroes Pasta Party.

St. Jude Heroes Pasta Party

St. Jude Heroes Pasta Party

I was sad my parents had decided against making the trip for the weekend, but I was meeting friends there so all appeared well.  I had been so concerned that I would not make it downtown from the suburbs on race day that I had not even allowed myself to get excited for the weekend.  Arriving at the pasta party, realizing the roads were in good shape and I was going to make it after all, I finally got excited.  My friends and I made another trip through the expo, and I let myself look at the medal for the first time.

We went into the ball room, took our seats and got our food.  I then received a text from another friend that she was sorry the race had been cancelled.  Cancelled?!  No!  We are here!  At the event!  It’s not cancelled!  Then a text from another friend.  Cancelled!  Then a news bulletin came across my phone.  Cancelled!  Still no official word from the race directors and we were at the event!  How could they not tell us?  About 20 more minutes passed, and by then the whole room knew.  The ALSAC CEO took the stage and gave us the official news.  It was then that I got the text notification from St. Jude.  Reality started to set in.  My 2013 St. Jude Half Marathon was not going to happen.

The expo had been great!

SJMMW Expo

SJMMW Expo

I went on Thursday after work.  It wasn’t very crowded so packet pick up was a breeze!  There were lots of vendors, and more freebies than I’ve ever gotten at an expo.  There was an area to write a message on a wall to the kids of St. Jude.

My message to the kids of St. Jude

My message to the kids of St. Jude

The coolest thing was the official pace car provided by Landers Ford.

The names of all the Heroes were on the official St. Jude Pace Car.

The names of all the Heroes were on the official St. Jude Pace Car.

There was an overlay on it with all of the names of the Heroes.

My name was on the official St. Jude Pace Car.

My name was on the official St. Jude Pace Car.

They also had a photographer to take your picture by your name with your bib.  We stayed about an hour then headed to dinner at Spaghetti Warehouse.

Other than disappointing news, the Pasta Party was fabulous!

The St. Jude Heroes Pasta Party was truly a festive occasion.

The St. Jude Heroes Pasta Party was truly a festive occasion.

It was the largest plated dinner in the history of Memphis, we were told.  They were very prepared, too, with 11 buffet lines, and about a dozen drink coolers along the walls with soda, bottled water, and tea.  There were only 2 beer lines but they moved quickly.  After Rick Shadyac gave us the bad news, they continued on with the featured speaker.  Hillary Husband, a 6 year patient of St. Jude, told us her story.  She was diagnosed when she was 14 and is still being treated.  She recently walked an entire marathon in the halls of St. Jude because she did not want her disease to get in the way of her goals.  The staff even set up a finish line for her to cross.  Even more impressive is that her route was around the radiation unit.  She figured out that 11 times around was a mile.  Can you imagine the mind-numbing boredom that would come with that many laps?  And to do that more than 26 times?  She is an amazing young lady, to say the least.  I almost lost it when she said we are the ones who inspire her.

I left the party thinking that was the end of my SJMMW 2013 but I was wrong.  Later that night, one of my friends texted me and told me his friend, who was here from Texas and who was planning to run her first marathon here, wanted to take a St. Jude Hospital tour since she couldn’t do the marathon.  He asked if I could help make that happen.  I told him I would try.  So, I contacted one of my friends who works there, and he was able to do the tour.  So, Saturday afternoon, 4 of us headed to the hospital for the tour.  Three of us had taken the tour back in the fall (read about that here), but we still learned even more.  It truly is an amazing place!

Elvis Presley was a St. Jude donor.

Elvis Presley was a St. Jude donor.

This gingerbread house at St. Jude is about the size of a small bathroom.

This gingerbread house at St. Jude is about the size of a small bathroom.

I also learned that many people decided to run the route anyway, and the race personnel greeted finishers with their medals.  What a neat thing for them to do!  I wish I had thought of it.  I will run my tribute miles at some point in the future.  I’m just not sure when yet.

As a consolation, we are able to transfer our registration to Rock and Roll Phoenix, Rock and Roll New Orleans, or Rock and Roll Nashville.  Other options are a full refund or donating your entry fee to St. Jude.  At the moment, I’m leaning toward Nashville.  If I don’t do that, I will definitely let them keep the fee.

So, you may be wondering why it was cancelled if the streets were clear.  Again, Memphis does not handle these things well.  The finish line was a solid sheet of ice, sidewalks were unsafe, and there were trees down along part of the course, due to the weight of the ice.

The finish line was a solid sheet of ice.  This photo was taken by a volunteer and posted on the Memphis Runners Track Club Facebook page.

The finish line was a solid sheet of ice. This photo was taken by a volunteer and posted on the Memphis Runners Track Club Facebook page.

Several thousand people in Memphis were without power, and since temps were going to be below freezing for a few days, they were concerned more trees and power lines would fall, causing more people to be without power.  30% of the volunteers had already backed out, as had 15% of the medical staff.  Additionally, the City of Memphis told race officials resources such as police, fire, and medical support could not be dedicated to the race while the city was under a state of emergency and might be needed elsewhere.  It’s disappointing because it really did turn into a non-event, like it almost always does.  At the same time, there was so much uncertainty about conditions in the hours leading up to the start that a decision had to be made.  They made the best decision they could.

Race or no race, St. Jude Heroes raised $8.2 million for the kids of St. Jude.  The average donation is $33.  That’s a lot of people wanting to help support St. Jude’s lifelong mission of finding cures and saving lives.  God willing, I will participate as a hero again in 2014.

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Tap N Run 4k Memphis

Yesterday I did the Tap N Run 4k Memphis, which was a beer run. It sounded like a good idea at first. Beer before noon can’t be all that bad, right? Except for the event wasn’t in the morning. It was at 2 pm in the afternoon. It still didn’t sound too bad. After all, October afternoons are pretty nice. Yeah! Turns out it was almost 90 degrees with 80-something percent humidity, and what appeared to be an overcast day turned into full sun by 2 pm. It was HOT! It was still fun, though.

Tap N Run 4k Course Map

Tap N Run 4k Course Map

Basically, you drink your way through the race. You get a small beer to toast the start, about 6 ounces.

The Volunbeers are getting the cups of beer ready for the start.

The Volunbeers are getting the cups of beer ready for the start.

Then, you get another small beer at each of 2 water, uh, beer stops, called Beer Chugs.

Beer Chugs were in place of water stops.  Water was available, too, though.

Beer Chugs were in place of water stops. Water was available, too, though.

Then, after the finish, you get a full-sized can of beer. The beer was surprisingly refreshing on the hot day. The first beer at the start was Schlafly Ale. The first Beer Chug had an orange beer, which was delicious! It was so refreshing! I wish I knew what it was so I can buy it. I asked but the volunteers (called Volunbeers) didn’t know. The second Beer Chug had Pabst Blue Ribbon, and at the end, you got your choice of Miller Light or Coors Light.

The costumes were nuts!

So many fun costumes in the crowd!

So many fun costumes in the crowd!

I saw many groups dressed in all the Mario characters.

Funny!

Funny!

Monsters U was well represented, and I saw Thing One and Thing Two. Because it started and ended on Beale Street downtown, there were many tourists spectating. One tourist asked what was going on, and someone responded that it was just a typical afternoon in downtown Memphis. It was funny!

Everyone got a finisher’s medal, too, which doubles as a bottle opener. Always useful!

The medal doubles as a bottle opener!

The medal doubles as a bottle opener!

One of my favorite things about this run is that since it wasn’t timed, I took some pics that I wouldn’t normally take time to snap, like the finish line!

Fed Ex Forum, home of the Memphis Grizzlies NBA team

Fed Ex Forum, home of the Memphis Grizzlies NBA team

New Daisy Theater

New Daisy Theater

Old Daisy Theater

Old Daisy Theater

Finish Line

Finish Line

Have you ever done a beer run?

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Memphis Brooks Museum Avant Garde Party

Last Sunday, I attended the Memphis Brooks Museum Avant Garde Party, an annual event for fellow level members and above.  I had really been looking forward to it, and it did not disappoint! 

When we arrived, there was a red carpet to welcome us, which was fun! 

Red Carpet for Brooks Museum Avant Garde Party

Red Carpet for Brooks Museum Avant Garde Party

We were greeted with our choice of wine or champagne before we ever even entered the museum. 

Welcome glass of wine or champagne

Welcome glass of wine or champagne

That’s my idea of a welcome!  There was live entertainment set up inside the museum as well as on the patio. 

Live Entertainment

Live Entertainment

They also had these neat little lounges arranged all over the place, indoors and out. 

Several lounges were set up all over the party.

Several lounges were set up all over the party.

The atmosphere was really artsy and fun!

The food was insane!  Servers were walking around carrying trays of things.  I had cold shrimp with a lemon vinaigrette, a sausage and rice ball with spicy mustard, and the single best thing of the night, which was crostini with tomato jam, smoked pork, and a verde sauce.  Yum!  Then there were several tables of food set up, too. 

Lots of food!

Lots of food!

Sandwiches, carving stations, potato bites, stuffed mushrooms, fried oysters, shrimp and grits, smoked chicken salad with roasted beets, and grilled veggie skewers were all there and more! 

Grilled veggie skewers

Grilled veggie skewers

Desserts included a watermelon and feta salad, custard bars, and some sort of yogurt soup with blueberries.  It was all so very good!

Drinks were freely flowing as well.  One of the stars was a station serving mint julep snow cones. 

Mint Julep Snow Cones

Mint Julep Snow Cones

These would be so perfect on a hot summer day.  There was also a bourbon bar with about 7 different kinds of bourbon set up. 

Bourbon Bar

Bourbon Bar

I tried a honey bourbon and a blackberry bourbon.  I was so surprised at how different bourbons can be.  I didn’t think I liked it other than in a mint julep (shocker since I went to college in Kentucky) but now I think I’m a bourbon convert.  They had the main bars set up on the patio serving wine, beer, martinis and a couple of specialty cocktails they made for the event.  The one I tried was called a Lazy Sunday Afternoon and featured basil vodka.

They also had corn hole set up on the patio, which we didn’t get a chance to play.  They had a ring toss game set up inside that we did play. 

Ring Toss

Ring Toss

We were given three rings each, and if we were able to toss one of our three rings onto a bottle, we got a Carroll Cloar poster (the summer exhibit at the museum).  I was lucky and won a poster!

This was also the last opportunity to tour the Carroll Cloar exhibit so I had to take one last peek at it.

Carroll Cloar Exhibit

Carroll Cloar Exhibit

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Remembering 9/11

It’s hard to imagine that it’s already been 12 years since that terrible day.  I still remember where I was, what I was doing and even what I was wearing.  I walked into work, about 5 minutes late.  My boss called me over to his desk.  Thinking I was about to get reprimanded for being late, I tentatively walked over there.  He pointed to the radio we always kept on in the office.  He asked if I had heard.  I had not.  I listened.  A few moments later, we heard the second tower had been hit.  A little later, we heard about the Pentagon and Pennsylvania.  I knew we were under attack, but who?  Why?  We didn’t have access to a TV, only the radio.  All I wanted to do was get to a TV to soak in everything I could learn.  That was the longest working day of my life.

Earlier this week, my friend Jennie, who moved to Ohio last year shared that every year on 9/11 she would take cookies or other treats to the fire station in downtown Memphis as a thank you.  Since she is not here to do that this year, she asked that her friends remember their local fire fighters and police officers and take something to thank them for their service.  I work right across the street from a fire station here in Memphis, so I decided I would do just that.  I got a card, and had everyone in the office sign it, and I baked chocolate chip cookies for them. 

Fresh baked cookies for fire fighters

Fresh baked cookies for fire fighters

I put the cookies on a patriotic plate to deliver to the fire fighters.

I put the cookies on a patriotic plate to deliver to the fire fighters.

A coworker and I delivered them and they were so appreciative! 

A coworker and I delivered the cookies.

A coworker and I delivered the cookies.

Those guys were soooooo much fun, too!  They were cracking jokes, and were just full of energy.

The lawn to the fire station was decorated, too.  They had the FDNY letters on the lawn in stars and stripes. 

The FDNY letters covered the lawn of the fire station right across the street from where I work.

The FDNY letters covered the lawn of the fire station right across the street from where I work.

The flag was flying at half-staff. 

The flag flying at half-staff on 9/11

The flag flying at half-staff on 9/11

They had flags in the ground representing the fire fighters and police officers who lost their lives in the tragedy.  They also had a poster with all of their photos.

Poster remembering the fire fighters and police officers who lost their lives on 9/11/01

Poster remembering the fire fighters and police officers who lost their lives on 9/11/01

I’m so glad I did this!  I was hoping to make their day but they ended up making mine!  Thanks for the great idea, Jennie!

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St. Jude Hospital Tour

This past Saturday I got the opportunity to tour St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, right here in Memphis, TN. As most of you know, I love St. Jude, they are my favorite charity, and I do all I can to support them. As you can imagine, I was super excited to get to see the hospital first-hand and learn more about the wonderful things they are doing there.

At the entrance to St. Jude Children's Research Hospital stands a statue of St. Jude, the patron saint of hopeless causes.

At the entrance to St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital stands a statue of St. Jude, the patron saint of hopeless causes.

First of all, I learned that St. Jude is the patron saint of hopeless causes. Danny Thomas, the founder of St. Jude Hospital, was a devout Catholic. As a struggling actor, he once gave his last $7 to the Catholic church and later prayed to St. Jude to help him find his way. His prayer included a promise that he would build a St. Jude shrine. After becoming a successful actor, he kept his word, and the hospital was the shrine he built. One of my friends asked, why Memphis? Well, it was important to Danny Thomas that the hospital not discriminate for any reason. This is even more important because the time period in which the hospital was founded was at the height of the civil rights movement, and sensitivities were very high. Not only was Memphis centrally located, being on the Mississippi River, having a major airport and train station, but he wanted to make a civil rights statement as well.

A bust of Danny Thomas, the founder of St. Jude, is on display in the hospital.  His nose is brighter than the rest because visitors often rub it for luck.

A bust of Danny Thomas, the founder of St. Jude, is on display in the hospital. His nose is brighter than the rest because visitors often rub it for luck.

I knew that no family is ever asked to pay for anything at St. Jude, but I didn’t know the measures the hospital takes to make sure the family has zero financial burden, even after treatment. See, cancer treatment can cause other health issues, such as hearing, vision, and even dental problems. St. Jude employs all kinds of doctors and nurses so that the family doesn’t have to go outside the hospital for these other issues. They also make many of their own medicines and have pharmacy licenses in 48 states. Once the child is done with treatment at the hospital and is back home, St. Jude can send their medicines to them, also free of charge. They’ve even covered the toll an illness like this can take on the family, a marriage, and the child’s siblings. They have social workers to provide counseling.

Every part of the hospital is designed with children in mind, and not just young children. Counters, desks, and even some ceilings are lowered so the child doesn’t feel so small. Waiting rooms are more like dream play rooms. They have arcades for teenagers and even a lounge area just for teens and their siblings, no parents allowed. They even have a high school prom every year for the teens that had to miss theirs due to their illness.

Mirror, Mirror is a poem written by a patient and is on display in the patient art gallery.

Mirror, Mirror is a poem written by a patient and is on display in the patient art gallery.

I also learned that there are 8 executive chefs in the city of Memphis, and 4 of them work at St. Jude. That means that as a patient and employee of St. Jude, you are going to eat very well. No icky hospital dinners here! Another interesting note about the cafeteria is that Danny Thomas wanted the doctors, nurses, patients and families to all dine together. He didn’t want a separate eating area for the doctors. He wanted the doctors and nurses to be as close to the patients as possible because he felt it would make them better at their jobs.

There is also a pavilion on the campus that is more like a museum of the history of St. Jude and Danny’s life. Here, you’ll find awards such as Emmys and even Danny’s Hollywood Star. They also hold special events here such as the prom I spoke of earlier.

These Emmys belonging to Danny Thomas are on display in the St. Jude Pavilion.

These Emmys belonging to Danny Thomas are on display in the St. Jude Pavilion.

Danny Thomas's Hollywood Star

Danny Thomas’s Hollywood Star

There are so many things I learned about St. Jude, I could go on and on. I will leave you with this, though. Once a child is finished with chemo, he or she gets a very special No Mo’ Chemo party. Nurses and volunteers sing a song to the tune of the old Oscar Meyer bologna jingle. Here are the lyrics.

Our patients have the cutest S-M-I-L-Es.

Our patients have the sweetest H-E-A-R-Ts.

Oh we love to see you every day

But now’s the time we get to say

Pack up your bags, get out the door.

You don’t need chemo anymore.

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Elvis Presley 5k Race Recap and a PR

Graceland, here in Memphis, is like Mecca for Elvis fans.

Graceland

Graceland

Every August, thousands upon thousands of Elvis fanatics from all over the world converge upon Memphis to pay homage to the King of Rock and Roll.

Banners outside of Graceland

Banners outside of Graceland

The week-long celebration culminates with a 5k that starts and finishes at the Graceland entrance. This is one of Memphis’s biggest 5ks and is one of the few, if not the only 5k where dressing in costume is acceptable. There is even a contest for the best Elvis male and female. It’s great for people-watching.

Elvis Presley 5k run/walk

Elvis Presley 5k run/walk

Interestingly, if you ask Memphis locals, most of us have never been to Graceland. Those that I know who have been, went with out-of-town guests they were entertaining. So, this area of town is very touristy and going there almost felt like I was on a vacation, with all the kitschy souvenir shops and Elvis-themed hotels and restaurants.

Elvis shops line the street in front of Graceland.

Elvis shops line the street in front of Graceland.

Souvenir shops are filled with everything Elvis.

Something else funny is that I ran this race last year and didn’t even notice I was in front of Graceland. Talk about tunnel vision!

Last year I loved seeing all the Elvis costumes and sunglasses so much that I decided to join in the fun this year. I had a pink Sparkle Skirt that I sewed a poodle onto to make a poodle skirt. I added a black initial to a white tech top, tied a pink-with-white-polka-dots bandana in my hair, and I was all set.

Flat me, ready for the 5k

Flat me, ready for the 5k

I got lots of compliments on my outfit, even though it was more 50s inspired than Elvis inspired.

The course itself is a really great course. It’s mostly flat with a few hills scattered in. Most of the course is actually through the residential areas around Graceland so it’s fairly well shaded. Several of the home owners had their water hoses out to spray down the runners, keeping us cool. Even though it was a nice day this year with temps in the low 70s and overcast, it still felt great to get sprayed down every now and then. One highlight was seeing the Navy captains run in formation for the entire race.

Navy Captains lining up for the start.

Navy Captains lining up for the start.

They did this last year, too, and it’s so fun to watch. Of course, running next to Navy men is never a bad thing!

The after party was so much fun, too. Post-race food was Krispy Kreme donuts, bananas, bags of white cheddar pop corn, pasta with meat sauce and alfredo sauce, smoothies, bagels, water, and freely flowing beer.

Post-Race Pasta

Post-Race Pasta

Gotta love a truck with a tap right on the side!

At the awards ceremony, they gave $100 each to the best male and female Elvis tribute runner. The female winner ran the entire race in gold leggings. I can’t imagine how hot and sticky that was! The male winner ran in white patent leather shoes. Talk about blisters and sore feet! He didn’t seem to mind, though.

The Female Elvis Costume winner went to the one of the right in the gold leggings.

Those are white patent leather shoes the Male Elvis Costume winner wore.

Those are white patent leather shoes the Male Elvis Costume winner wore.

The only negative was that a few days before the race, they sent an email saying the first 800 finishers would receive a medal. I think if any race gives out finishers medals, they should be for all finishers, not just the top 800. With over 1100 finishers, that leaves a lot of people out. The race director put on Facebook that the reason was due to expenses and they wanted as much money as possible to go to the charity, Livitup. I can appreciate wanting to maximize the charitable donation. At the same time, if you can’t afford medals for all, don’t offer them period. Medals were not mentioned on the event website and were not advertised at all so they would not have been expected had that email not been sent. It’s really not that big of a deal, but it did put a damper on a really fun event.

I was really happy with my race performance.

Post-Race Pic--all I need is a milkshake with a cherry on top.

Post-Race Pic–all I need is a milkshake with a cherry on top.

I got a PR, which I’ve managed to do at every 5k I’ve run this year except for one. I really hope this trend continues for my half marathons this fall.

Do you have a favorite local race?

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I’m a charity athlete raising money for St. Jude. To make a donation, visit my personal fund-raising page here.

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