Girls on the Run 5K

13235639_10154933504668228_4858850113780936631_oOn May 14th my 12-year-old cousin Vivi did her first 5K race through the Girls on the Run program, and I happily served as her running buddy. Girls on the Run is a non-profit organization for grade-school girls that encourages healthy lifestyles and builds confidence. Vivi participated in this program for several weeks leading up to the run, and her training paid off. We finished the 5K in 27 minutes–not bad for her first rodeo!

My mom and I arrived at “Inspiration Village” (held in the fields behind the Pennington Biomedical Research Center in Baton Rouge) around 7:30 that morning. There wasn’t a cloud in the sky, and it was a beautiful day for a run…albeit, a little hot.

Various schools and organizations had tents set up for their girls in the program. A DJ was playing on a stage. There were several stations for the girls (and boys) to get decorated for the run, including colored hair spray and bandannas with individualized expressions like “just keep running” or “sunshine.” We also got buttons, and someone was selling tutus (but for the record, I made mine myself).

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Vivi, her sister G, and my aunt and uncle arrived shortly after us. There was a station for spectators to decorate posters, so my mom and G made some while me and Vivi got ready. Then at 8:30, there was a Zumba warm-up in “Balloon Field.” This activity was for everyone, so my mom, G, Vivi, and I all did Zumba. The girls were clearly embarrassed at my mom and I getting into the dances, which just made it more fun for us (hehe).

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Mom & G cheering us on!

After the warm-up, I wasn’t just warm–I was already sweating! I hoped I could keep up my energy and have a good race; I didn’t want to let Vivi down. We lined up near the back of the race corral, and at 9 am we were off.

I explained to Vivi that it’s important to go slow at first, to avoid burnout. We weaved around walkers and slower runners, keeping a slow and steady pace. When we reached the first water station at mile 1, I encouraged her to go a little faster. She seemed okay, but she didn’t want to go faster. Not wanting to push her too hard, I kept the slow and steady pace.

As we ran, I explained some of my racing tips and tried to keep her motivated. At mile 3, when I was telling her to go her fastest, she wanted to slow down. When the finish line came into view, she wanted to–*gasp*–walk! She complained about a stitch in her side. But I refused to hear it.

vivi and sophie

Vivi & Sophie!

We reached the final stretch, and I told her to sprint. Out of nowhere she starts sprinting full speed ahead, leaving me in the dust and finishing a good 20 seconds faster than me. That stitch in her side must have miraculously disappeared!

I was very proud and impressed by Vivi, but I have a sneaking suspicion she could have done better. Next year I want G and my mom to run with us, and I’m not letting anyone slow down.

After the race, my brother and sister-in-law, who were visiting from out-of-state, came out with my niece Sophie. There were pancakes, fruit cups, music, and a photo booth at the post-race party. It was fun dancing with little Sophie, who just turned a year old.

photo booth

I love these girls!

This is a fun race for anyone of any age. Everything about it was adorable. I had a great time with my family, and I can’t wait to do this one next year!

 

Spring break

This week was spring break, and since I work at and attend a university, that means a whole week off for me. I headed straight home after work last Thursday night, making it to my parents’ place by 11 pm. They live out in the middle of the woods of central Louisiana, with several acres on a beautiful lake. Home is like a vacation destination, complete with fine dining, a pool, hiking, and the luxury of cable television (something I don’t pay for at my own home).

IMG_20160326_182037On Easter, we were joined by my dad’s side of the family, as well as my mom’s sister’s family. This included my two youngest cousins (who are like little sisters to me) and my cousin Ira’s three adorable children. We dyed eggs and explored the property. I baked a delicious chocolate cake that was such a hit, my aunt asked me to make another for an upcoming family reunion (recipe here)!

One of my little cousins stayed for the week after Easter. Tuesday she, my mom, and I drove up to the Kisatchie Backbone Trail, part of the Kisatchie National Forest near Natchitoches, Louisiana. This is the only trail in Louisiana where you see a lot of rock outcroppings. It was a neat trail, complete with sandy streams, beds of ferns, some steep inclines, and great overlooks. We hiked a total of seven miles.

We also saw the movie Miracles from Heaven this week. This is an excellent movie, and I highly recommend seeing it. Not many movies these days are worth paying $10 to see, but I’ll gladly splurge to see the few Christian movies that make it to theaters.

I hope you all had an enjoyable Easter as well. 🙂

Christmas in the country

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Hiking Club adventures

The last time I had a month-long semester break, I was sick the entire time and spent a day in the emergency room. So I’ve decided to make the most of this Christmas break. On my first day of post-finals freedom, I went to the hiking club Christmas party in Baton Rouge. I haven’t been able to do many hikes this year, so it was nice to see that group again and meet some new people. The dirty Santa game was hilarious, with the most coveted items being a giant frog-prince planter and a bottle of Fireball whiskey. My favorite quote of the night was “I got the frog, but you got the prince,” to which this little old lady replied “Yeah, and I should’ve never kissed that damn prince!”

The next day, my mom and I headed to Tylertown, Mississippi for the hiking club’s monthly group hike. A man in the club hosted a lunch at his home, and then led us to his tree farm for the hike. He owns about 400 acres of forest and has created his own trail through it. The 5-mile trail we hiked was lovely. I brought my chihuahua, Stu, along, and since his tiny legs couldn’t keep up, my mom and I took turns carrying him. Eventually our arms got tired, so I put him in my backpack. He enjoyed the ride and we got a good laugh out of it.

From Tylertown, me, Mom, and Stu drove to my parents’ house out in the country of central Louisiana. The small country community of that area had a Christmas fundraising event that night. A live band was playing, and there was food and a bonfire. Some teens sat on a tailgate parked by the fire. I spent the whole year in the world of academia, but suddenly it felt like I was in a country song. It was a welcome change of scenery.

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St. Francis Xavier Cathedral in Alexandria, LA.

A few nights later, my parents and I headed to the big city (Alexandria) for a concert of the Red River Chorale at the gorgeous St. Francis Xavier Cathedral. The church lights were dimmed, and candles were lit as the concert progressed. The chorale did a wonderful job, and I was reminded of my days at Centenary College (where I got my bachelor’s) and going to hear their award-winning choir at every possible opportunity.

After the concert, my parents and I went to a nearby coffee shop downtown for some hot chocolate and games. As we drove there, we accidentally drove through a movie set. Curious, my dad asked the barista at the coffee shop about the movie. Since I’ve been an extra in movies before, I got some information from the barista and applied to be an extra. So, this weekend I will be working as a movie extra!

Today I learned how to use a jaw saw, and I chopped down our Christmas tree on my parents’ property. Christmas in the country has been full of adventures, and there’s more to come!

To Michigan and back: Our 2,000-mile family road trip

This week my mom, my aunt and uncle, their three boys, and I took a very long road trip–driving from south Louisiana to Ann Arbor, Michigan (and back!) in the course of six days. My aunt and uncle’s daughter was taking her first set of vows to become a nun and we all wanted to drive up for the occasion. You see, taking vows is to a nun as getting married is to most girls. So this was a big deal.

We took two cars and caravan-ed, which proved to be difficult considering my mom and I are slow, cautious drivers–while my uncle, on the other hand, has a lead foot. With seven people in tow, we had to stop once every hour or so for someone to use the bathroom or get a snack (which extended our travel time a good bit). After two full days of only driving, eating, and sleeping, I was so happy to finally arrive in Ann Arbor.

Since we had come this far, we figured we might as well go a little further to see the Great Lakes. So the next day we took a day trip north to visit Lake Erie. The next morning we attended the vow-taking ceremony, followed by a reception at the convent. Once the reception ended, we hit the road again and headed back south. So basically, this was a week of nonstop driving.

Driving can be stressful, especially when you’re trying to caravan with someone who drives like Dale Earnhardt, Jr.. By the end of the first day on the road, I voiced that I could really use a cup of hot herbal tea. For some reason my 11-year-old cousin was quite tickled by the fact that I enjoy hot tea (which amused me). And so it became a running joke that everywhere we went, I had to find some hot tea. Multiple times throughout the trip, this child and his 18-year-old brother made me laugh so hard I was in tears. I had forgotten how hilarious boys this age are, since my brothers and I are grown and have lost that child-like silliness.

I was hoping that visiting the convent would be a guiding experience for me, as I’ve been struggling to figure out how I want to spend the rest of my life (single, married, military, religious, kids, no kids, etc.). Although I didn’t exactly have an epiphany while there, the visit 1.) confirmed that I don’t want to be a nun, 2.) gave me more respect for those who do chose religious life, and 3.) made me realize that material possessions and money are not that important.

See, these nuns own nothing but the clothes on their back; they never will own anything but that. The convent will provide their basic needs, but they cannot have any items or money in their name–everything belongs to the community of sisters. While it would be nice to not worry about money or be weighed down with material possessions, this lifestyle requires a lot of sacrifice. I’m not materialistic in the slightest, but I can’t imagine not having my dogs, cell phone, running shoes, or car (to name a few). And what would I do without access to hot tea?!

Our last night on the road, we stayed in the area around Nashville where all the country music stars and music producers live. The cheapest houses in this area are half a million dollars, while the country club is lined with mansions up to four stories high. What a culture shock to go from the convent–where everyone has taken a vow of poverty–to this town!

On our drive home we went to mass at Mother Angelica’s shrine, a beautiful church and grounds in north Alabama that is home to another set of nuns. As chance would have it, the priest talked about the importance of not hoarding material possessions, saying “It’s important to work hard to earn enough money to provide a comfortable and decent lifestyle for your family; but beyond that, do not want for more.” Jesus said to not hoard possessions; if you have more than one of something, give the extra to someone in need. If you have more money than you know what to do with, don’t buy unnecessary luxuries. Rather, give to charity.

I guess my spiritual lesson turned out to be this: no matter what life I choose for myself, I should live it for others. I should use my extra money to help others, rather than saving up for some giant house with 10 bedrooms when all I need is one. There’s no need to take a vow of poverty; just realize that you don’t need “things” in order to lead a happy life.

Sorry I went on a tangent there! These are my thoughts and reflections on the last week. I think I’ll go steep some hot tea now. 🙂