Category Archives: “Always From the Heart” – Blog

“Come Home to Me”

“From the Heart” Column – The Gwinnett Citizen Newspaper – July, 2017
“Come Home to Me”
By Katie Hart Smith

Click the link below to read July’s column.
https://gwinnettcitizen.com/opinion/columnists/from-the-heart-katie-hart-smith/3438-come-home-to-me

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“That’s what you would have done, right?”

Dad (Joe Hart) doing what he loves best – playing the piano.

“From the Heart” Column – The Gwinnett Citizen Newspaper – June, 2017
“That’s what you would have done, right?”
By Katie Hart Smith

In honor of Father’s Day, I wanted to share with you some funny “Porch Time with Daddy” stories that our family howls over, year after year.

Click the link below to read June’s column.
https://gwinnettcitizen.com/opinion/columnists/from-the-heart-katie-hart-smith/3353-that-s-what-you-would-have-done-right

My Destiny

Katie Hart Smith – Nursing Student – Georgia State University 1984 – 1987

May 2017 – “From the Heart” Column – The Gwinnett Citizen
https://gwinnettcitizen.com/opinion/columnists/from-the-heart-katie-hart-smith

Georgia author unlocks family history mystery back to Indiana gangster with help of Ancestry.com and DNA analysis

John Dillinger – mug shot

April “From the Heart” column in The Gwinnett Citizen
https://gwinnettcitizen.com/opinion/columnists/from-the-heart-katie-hart-smith/3135-unlocking-a-family-history-mystery

Interview with Katie Hart Smith on America’s Web Radio

The Prologue Radio Show

To listen to Katie’s interview to discuss her latest book, Couch Time with Carolyn, her background, and future projects, please click on the grey arrow below:

Enjoy!

The Gift

Fallon Coody, Georgia's 2nd and 4th Liver Transplant Recipient

Fallon Coody, Georgia’s 2nd and 4th Liver Transplant Recipient

To listen to the audio blog, simply click on the gray arrow below.

During the mid-1980’s, a frantic mother races her car from Macon to Atlanta to admit her daughter, Fallon Coody to Egleston Children’s Hospital.* Fallon’s life hangs in the balance as she suffers from a very rare, genetic condition. Kimberly, Fallon’s six year old sister recalls making the trip at least every four to six weeks and wonders if the little gift, she had asked her parents for a baby sister for Christmas, would survive.

After numerous medical exams and testing, Fallon was diagnosed with an amino acid disorder called Tyrosinemia, type II (TYR II). There are three types that vary in degrees, type III being the most severe. How rare is TYR II? While it is typically seen in the first born, in this unique case, it skipped Kimberly and affected Fallon instead. The occurrence rate for TYR II is less than 1 in 250,000 individuals worldwide. Those who suffer from this condition are not able to break down an amino acid, a small molecule that makes up proteins, known as tyrosine. The key is to detect TYR II early and begin treatment in order to prevent complications that can affect the eyes, skin, and intellectual development.

Fallon was the first patient diagnosed at Egleston with TYR II. Because she initially was breast-fed, doctors think that had Fallon been on a regular infant formula, the outcome would have been dire. As toxins built up in her body, her condition worsened. She failed to gain weight and suffered from severe abdominal pain and red, hot, burning palms and soles. In an effort to assuage some of the symptoms, a special baby formula developed in Germany was sent to the hospital. An unknown side effect of this special formula was liver cancer.

Diagnosed with liver cancer, Fallon received the gift of life not once, but twice. She is Georgia’s 2nd and 4th liver transplant recipient. On September 25, 1990, Fallon received a cadaver liver. A complication developed. In a last-chance effort to save her life; a second liver was implanted six months later on March 2, 1991.

Fallon in the ICU at Egleston Hospital

Fallon in the ICU at Egleston Hospital

During her hospitalization at Egleston, teams of specialists and nurses cared for Fallon. Her mother, LuAnn, calculated that Fallon had spent a total of four years in the hospital as she battled additional complications that included: temporary blindness, ruptured stomach ulcer, and chicken pox. Fallon even “coded,” (her breathing and/or heart beat stopped) in the intensive care unit. She recalls having an “outer body experience,” visualizing her medical team resuscitating her in the unit and on other occasions she “hovered” above them during her surgical operations. Fallon remembers as a small child that she went through a dark tunnel towards a light; always waking up to return to the safety of her mother’s awaiting arms.

Almost thirty years later, I received an email via my author “Contact” page and a private Facebook message. Fallon was interested in sharing her story. Although she doesn’t consider herself a ‘writer,’ she asked a nurse colleague of mine about reaching out to me and was encouraged to do so.

Why was this such a special request – a gift – for me? I was one of the many pediatric nurses that cared for critically ill patients, like Fallon, on a unit called 2-South, a high-acuity, medical-surgical wing at Egleston that provided care for neurology, renal, gastrointestinal, transplant, and cancer patients in the late 1980’s. It was a special place to work. Although there were some heart-breaking outcomes, it was a unit filled with love, hope, and in some instances, like with Fallon – miracles.

Fallon's first slice of pizza while in the hospital

Fallon’s first slice of pizza while in the hospital

It is an honor and privilege to share her heart-felt story, struggles, and advice with you. After obtaining written permission to share her heroic journey and personal photographs for this blog, Fallon and I will also be collaborating on her in-depth story for a book.

Celebrating Fallon’s 33rd birthday in December, LuAnn considers “Every day is Mothers’ Day.”

Fallon and Gabe Photo credit: Lori Ann Thwing, Moments by Lori Ann

Fallon and Gabe
Photo credit: Lori Ann Thwing, Moments by Lori Ann

In an interview (sometimes tearful) with Fallon, her mother, LuAnn, and sister, Kimberly, they wanted to reach out as advocates in an effort to help families who are suffering or have a family member struggling with a life-threatening condition and to promote the importance of organ donation in the United States.

Fallon wants you to know how important the gift of life is, reciting the phrase, “Don’t take your organs to heaven…Heaven knows we need them here!”

Q&A with Fallon Coody, Georgia’s 2nd and 4th Liver Transplant Recipient
To include: LuAnn, her mother, and Kimberly, her older sister

Q: Where were you born?
F: Macon, December, 1982
K: I had asked my parents for a baby sister for Christmas and I got Fallon!

Q: Tell me about your family.
F: I have an older sister, Kimberly who is married and has two children and my mom. My father passed away from cancer a few years ago. I still have relatives in Georgia.

Q: When did you first realize Fallon had Tyrosinemia, Type II?
L: When Fallon was around eight months old, she still wasn’t holding her bottle or sitting up. Concerned, I brought her to our local pediatrician who advised that Fallon have further medical testing.

Q: When did Fallon first come to Egleston?
L: Back then, we didn’t have Google or the Internet to research the problem. After conferring with my own mother and listening to my gut instincts, the family decided to drive up to Atlanta to seek out the advice of the pediatric specialists at Egleston.

Q: How did you become a liver transplant recipient?
F: They found out that the special formula I was drinking caused liver cancer.
L: While Fallon was on the operating table, I asked the doctor to show me the actual pathology of the liver biopsy. (crying) I had to see the cancer for myself and know that I was doing everything I possibly could to save my child.
F: They didn’t know if I would live beyond my 10th birthday.

Q: What required you to have a second transplant?
F: I developed vanishing bile duct syndrome. It was a difficult time because I even saw the first recipient die from complications after their transplant surgery while I was in the unit.

Q: Describe your childhood growing up managing this condition.
F: Because I was in the hospital so much, I didn’t attend school. The teachers at the hospital tried to keep me up to speed on my studies, but I really wasn’t interested. I didn’t have a lot of energy and tired easily. Mom, my sister, and my family never left me alone. I was handled like a China doll.

Q: Were there any special precautions you had to take?
F: My diet. Since I couldn’t eat meat, Mom would drive through Wendy’s to get the crispy part of the chicken skin that fell through the grates so she could make me “crispy” sandwiches with mayonnaise and lettuce. While I am considered “cured” now from the disease, I still love eating vegetables and fruit.

Q: What do you remember about your hospitalizations?
F: My family and I typically spent every holiday in the hospital or at the Ronald McDonald House. I remember being in the hospital one Easter. My mom decided that we were going to dye eggs. So, we dyed the eggs using various colors in the toilet bowl. I will never forget the look on the housekeeper’s face when she discovered a multi-colored, stained toilet.

I also remember when I was about seven years old that I grabbed my transplant doctor, Dr. Dodson, by the necktie and pulled him down towards my face to tell him that I didn’t want any staples in my transplant incision. He listened to me, using only tape and internal dissolvable stiches.

Fallon's decorated hospital room

Fallon’s decorated hospital room

Q: What did you do to maintain a positive outlook?
F: You know, I never wished to be anyone else or thought ‘why me?’ I was always surrounded by my family. My mom would decorate my hospital room with kites and banners. I loved it when other patients would stop by and look at my room. Mom designed a prize box for me where I was able to retrieve little gifts after procedures. She even melted Hershey kisses around bitter pills I had to swallow.

Kimberly (L) & Fallon (R)

Kimberly (L) & Fallon (R)

Q: What does having this condition taught you about yourself?
F: The small things aren’t worth getting upset over. Life’s too short.
K: She is definitely the strong, calm one in the family. (laughs). I’ve never heard Fallon complain, not even when she was experiencing severe pain.

Q: What advice would you like to tell your doctors? Nurses?
F: It’s so important to have a good bedside manner. I remember several doctors sitting up with me through the night. They were really concerned and cared about me. All I ever asked was that they be up front with me. Don’t sugarcoat anything and tell me ‘it’s not that bad’ when in fact the opposite is true. That leads to mistrust. Just tell me like it is…on my level of understanding.

Q: Where do you live now?
F: In a town just across the northern Indiana border, in Michigan.

Q: What are your life goals? Dreams?
F: After my second transplant, I was able to enroll into school and finish elementary and complete high school (in 3 yrs), graduating in 2002. I attended community college where I got my associates in business marketing. I am now enrolled at Indiana University, a satellite campus in Terre Haute, Indiana. I have decided to become a social worker. I plan to finish my Bachelors degree and then pursue my Masters. I would like to work at Riley Children’s Hospital in Indianapolis and then eventually return to Atlanta.

I want to show what an amazing life-changing gift organ donation can be as well as what an extremely sick child on her death bed can overcome – when there is hope. If nothing else, if I can make a difference in one persons or a child’s life, that is all I can ask for.

Gus

Gus

Q: What do you like to do in your spare time?
F: I take care of my Friesian horses and my new 6 month old yellow lab puppy named Gus.

Q: Where do you find your source of strength on the tough days?
F: I know for a fact that had it not been for my family, doctors, nurses, friends, church and LOTS of prayers and of course my donor family’s gift, I would not be here today telling my story.

Donate Life

Did you know?
– April is Donate Life month
– One donor can save up to 8 lives!

To learn more about Organ Donation or to become an Organ Donor, visit the Department of Health and Human Services at: http://www.organdonor.gov/index.html

From my heart to yours, have a blessed day!
~ Katie

Source:
National Institute of Health: http://ghr.nlm.nih.gov/condition/tyrosinemia

Music Credit:
Krackatoa, Track: “Pretend and Walk Outside,” Album: “Noah’s Stark”
http://freemusicarchive.org

Did you Know?
Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta is celebrating its 100th Year Anniversary
For more information, visit: http://www.choa100years.org

*Currently referred to as Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta at Egleston

Bloom & Grow

Bloom & Grow Featuring an interview with hospital certified harp therapist, Brenda Hart

Bloom & Grow
Featuring an interview with hospital certified harp therapist, Brenda Hart

To listen to the audio blog, simply click on the gray arrow below.

With the onset of Spring nearly upon us, a time for renewal, rebirth, and blossoms, one such blossoming spirit is my Mom. She never ceases to amaze me as she challenges herself through life in her tireless pursuit of education and continuous learning. While many choose to retire in their mid-sixties, Mom embraced her love of music and art, combining her many talents as a recreational therapist as a specialist in Gerontology and Alzheimer patients, by learning to play the harp at age 65.

This month’s blog is dedicated to my Mom who serves as my inspiration and pushes me to expand my boundaries in creativity and writing. As a result, I decided to interview her and include her harp playing on the “From the Heart” audio blog, too. I hope she serves as an inspiration to you as you follow your heart and dreams.

Katie: What age did you begin playing the harp?
Brenda (a.k.a. “Mom”): I learned to play the harp in 2006 at age 65. I have continued taking classes and have been playing for nine years now.

K: Where did your inspiration for creativity and music originate?
B: Music has always been a part of my household from childhood to the present. Historically, my father and grandfather were singers. My husband is a pianist and church organist. While I was offered music lessons by my parents, I was never encouraged to practice. I even enjoyed taking modern dance and ballet classes. Singing, voice lessons, and participation in church choirs over the years expanded my repertoire of music. The thread of music wound around me until I was in the right place at the right time and had an “ah ha” moment.

The beautiful stain glass window of David playing the lyre with a lamb at his feet was always in my view as I sat with my choir. When a harpist played with the orchestra one Sunday, I heard the sound and felt the pull in my heart to learn how to play the instrument. I think David was encouraging me with God’s good grace.

K: What type of harp did you learn to play?
B: The Celtic, or Irish harp is what I play. The harp is an ancient instrument, originating over thousands of years ago. In the Bible it is written that David played the harp for Saul to soothe his illness. Long before the lyre or types of cradle harps were created, ancient wall drawing in Egypt depict the harp to be only a bow with a string. Presumably, the bow without the arrow, useful as it was, became an instrument of peace. Sound and silence created a vibrating type of music that was lovely, accepted and appreciated.

K: What type of classes did you take to become a Master Harp Therapist and a Hospital Certified Master Harp Therapist?
B: Harp classes were offered at our local college, Bucks County Community College where I attended for five semesters. Edie Elkan, President and Founder of Bedside Harp, Inc. (BSH), was my teacher. She encouraged me to begin the course work to become a master harp therapist. I enrolled and completed the modules in two years. The 240-hour internship was enriching at Abington Memorial Hospital. I played in many areas of the hospital, getting experience with all types of individuals. The BSH program enabled me to become a Hospital Certified Master Harp Therapist.

K: How do you play and walk with the Celtic harp?
B: My 32-string companion fits over my shoulder and is secured around my waist and back to guarantee walking balance through the hallways and into patient rooms. This allows both of my hands to be free to pluck the strings.

K: What kinds of music do you play in the hospital for your patients?
B: A different type of music is played for specific types of individuals. The same music is not appropriate for everyone. The training with BSH enabled me to learn the purpose of being a harp therapist. Observation of changes in breathing patterns, relaxation in the face and body and feeling the environment come with the training. I enjoy watching people smile, sing, dance, and relax.

There are many patients who prefer an upbeat sound. When I play for seniors, they love to sing and tap their feet to the music, and make requests. Thank goodness I play by ear and have accumulated many songs in my repertoire ready to play at the moment of the request.

K: Where do you play your harp?
B: I play at Wesley Enhanced Living which is a facility for the elderly and at The Cancer Treatment Center of America in Philadelphia. Often, I am also asked to play for specific programs, funerals, church services, privately in homes, as well as for the dying.

K: What kind of experiences and responses do you encounter and receive when you play the harp?
B: Several experiences and responses come to mind. I played for a lady who met me in the hallway several weeks after her surgery. She wanted me to know that hearing the harp music as she was waking up from anesthesia after surgery was a most serene moment. Tears came to her eyes as she told me her spirits were lifted when she heard the sound.

Nursing staff will ask me to play for certain patients who will respond to soothing, relaxing, soft and slow music. There was a patient who was restless and in pain. After I played the harp for her, she mentioned that her pain subsided as she felt the vibrations of the harp and heard the music.

There is a joy when I see someone smile and laugh when they see me and my harp coming down the hallway. I had only had one or two people ask me to ‘please go away.’ I know what they are thinking. The harp brings a sign of eternal rest and some are not ready for an angel passing by their doorway. For others who mention seeing an angel, I tell them I have not earned my wings, yet!

There are even those individuals who can’t respond to or hear the sounds of the harp. The hearing capacity of those in a coma is still sharp. So, a soft, quiet sound produced from the stings brings comfort even though changes may not be seen.

Recently, a friend had a stroke. Knowing the capacity of the power of the brain to heal, her friends began to sing familiar songs. Every part of the brain responds to music and this is why those with Alzheimer’s or vascular dementia will respond, speak and brighten their eyes when the harp is played.

The power of “live” music is beneficial. Seeing, hearing and touching the vibrations of the harp is healing, comforting and relaxing. Even I benefit. In a busy, stressful day, I can pick up the harp and it gives me comfort.

K: What is your philosophy about continuous learning?
B: I have always believed that learning doesn’t stop, but rather continues throughout life. The past nine years with BSH and by learning to play the harp has allowed me to express the inner most part of my soul. I feel a sense of accomplishment and I enjoy striving for the next challenge. What a compliment to my occupation working with older adults. How wonderful it is to learn, share and play creatively adapting my music for family, clients, patients and residents. I love seeing the changes in behavior, attitude and appreciation and maybe healing.

K: How has playing the harp affected you?
B: I have grown, developed and challenged my brain to continue learning. The more I play, the more I love what I am doing.

Like a flower, I have blossomed in so many ways; I’m focused, free, joyful, and happy.

As Mini Myers, a concert pianist and my Girl Scout Leader told me when I was young, “Music keeps you on the straight and narrow, out of trouble and following the right path in your life’s journey.”

My mantra is that we are never too old to learn!

Music Credit:
Brenda L. Hart, MS, M.Ed. CTRS, HCMHT
“Memories”
“Morning has Broken”

For more information about how to become a harp therapist, visit Bedside Harp, Inc. at: http://www.bedsideharp.com

From my heart to yours, have a blessed day!
~ Katie

Next blog release date: May, 2015

The Greatest of These is Love

Heart Lock and Key

To listen to the audio blog, simply click on the gray arrow below.

Valentine’s Day is quickly approaching; love is on everyone’s mind. With the movie, Fifty Shades of Grey coming out (and yes, I read the book), I don’t want to see the character, Anastasia Steele, to be seen as a positive influence and promoted as a role model for women. Conversely, a gentleman doesn’t need to draft a contract for a relationship like Christian Grey. Many of my friends are in various relationship stages of treasuring it, looking for it, finding it, or keeping it. Regardless of which stage of love you are in, I have some helpful advice from the heart (I kissed a few frogs before I met my forever husband, Jeff) to help women and men alike appreciate and preserve their authentic self.

1) Know Your Value –The qualities you bring to a relationship define your true self. Own it. Don’t sell yourself short or tear at your inner soul with the hopes of gaining the attention of another. Appreciate don’t depreciate your own worth in the presence of the other. If that individual doesn’t respect you for who you are, the entire package, then they just aren’t right for you.

2) You are Complete – You are a human being, complete and whole, searching for love. Bringing another person into your life to love and cherish shouldn’t fill a void or gap in who you are as a person. Ideally, the other person should bring out the best qualities and talents that you already possess and vice versa in the relationship.

3) Draft a Non-Negotiable List – You know in your heart the kind of person that is perfect for you. Now take out your pen and write down the characteristics and qualities you are searching for, your non-negotiable values. For example, if faith or children are important, then they should be on your list. Be specific, not general. Steer clear of being too picky especially when it comes to hair, eye color and body type. Yes, attraction is important, but “you can’t judge a book by its cover.” Dig deep and give yourself every opportunity to get to know someone, as you would want the same courtesy extended to you.

4) You are the Draft Horse in the Relationship – (OK, I’m showing my country girl side :-)) Meaning, if you are the one pulling all of the weight in the relationship or putting forth all of the work arranging dates, paying for excursions, texting, calling, emailing, then…the other individual is either lazy or “they just aren’t into you.” Being in a relationship like this is exhausting, like trying to beat a square peg into a round hole. You have to be honest with yourself and ask, “Am I being used? Are they taking advantage of me? Am I the giver 80-100% of the time?” Look for relationships where each individual contributes to the partnership – because actions speak louder than words, or texts, or emails. This leads me to the next point, #5.

5) Virtual Word v. Real Word – The ideal relationship occurs in the real world, not in the virtual land of perfect texts, emails, Photoshopped pictures, and impersonal exchanges. Anyone can become the perfect someone with the stroke of the keyboard. I admit that Jeff and I met through a popular online dating site. After sifting and deleting profiles that only talked about themselves, the sizes of the bank accounts, houses, cars and body parts, did I focus on Jeff’s profile. He was congruent with his true self – online and offline. It wasn’t until we spoke to each other on the phone, did I fall in love with the sound of his voice, his laugh and his sense of humor. We carried on real conversations (not texted ones) over the phone and in person while we dated. No games. No gimmicks. No B.S. Because, I promise you, when someone wants to be with you and you with them, you can’t stand to be apart. And, this leads me to the last point, #6.

6) The Chameleon Effect – If you find that you are losing your sense of self or morphing into a new person to become the “ideal” for the other in a relationship, STOP. I call this The Chameleon Effect when an individual shape-shifts into a new form with the desire to attract another just like a chameleon who changes its colors to blend into its environment. The bottom line is you won’t be happy with yourself for sacrificing who your really are with the hopeful wish that the other person will notice and love you. You don’t need to sign a relationship contract like Anastasia, barter, cop a plea deal, grovel, dye your hair, cut it, grow it, lose 20 pounds, lie, cheat, steal, or more importantly have to ditch your family, friends, core beliefs and values.

The National Fatherhood Institute conducted a survey for the top reasons for divorce in the U.S. across all demographics.

Top 10 Reasons for Divorce
1. Lack of communication
2. Money
3. Feeling constrained
4. Lack of Trust
5. Expectations from each other
6. Your spouse doesn’t understand or fulfill your needs and wishes
7. Quick change in lifestyle
8. Insecurity
9. Religious and cultural differences
10. Abuse

First, learn to love yourself – flaws and all. Second, forgive yourself for mistakes in the past and move forward. Learn from them. Lastly, let go of anger and resentment because negative feelings perpetuate negativity in your life. Then, when you are ready, open your heart to love another.

“And now abides faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these is love.”
– 1 Corinthians 13:13

~ Katie

Next blog release date: March, 2015

Music Credit
Marcel Pequel, Album: From One To Nine, “Six”
Source: http://freemusicarchive.org/music/Marcel_Pequel/From_One_To_Nine/

Be Brave & Let Go!

Be Brave & Let Go!

Be Brave & Let Go!

To listen to the audio blog, simply click on the gray arrow below.

2014 has been one incredible year of firsts, not only for me, but for some of my dear friends, too. If you read, Couch Time with Carolyn, then you will know that I am a huge fan of lists – a “check, done, move on” kind of gal. So, let’s recap with a countdown of the top three 2014 firsts in chronological order.

Couch Time with Carolyn book launch – completed Friday, August 1, 2014

Couch Time with Carolyn Book Launch Party 8/1/14

Couch Time with Carolyn Book Launch Party 8/1/14

While I have been a writer for over two decades, writing, publishing and releasing Couch Time with Carolyn was a blessing. I thoroughly enjoy writing stories from the heart, teaching life lessons and inspiring others by speaking to the soul. For this endeavor, I let go, prayed and with the support of my husband, family, dear life-long friends, and the Dunwoody Girls, was able share a personal story about love, faith, friendship, and the circle of life where life’s trials and tribulations ultimately shaped us into resiliently strong women.

Guests at the launch party commented about how my eyes sparkled and my face beamed. While I would chalk up my nerves and excitement to be the equivalent to those I experienced on Jeff’s and my wedding day, I knew I was in harmony with my inner spirit. And, it was shining through. Life has many roads for us and a myriad of chapters to be started and concluded so we can personally grow, evolve and become the best we can be and in return, give our best to others.

This past week I learned that Couch Time with Carolyn had been nominated for the 51st Georgia Author of the Year Award (GAYA) in the Memoir/Autobiography category. The recognition and awards ceremony will take place in June, 2015. I am humbled to be among so many fantastic, Georgian writers who are passionate about the art of storytelling.

I was thrilled to home-grow Couch Time with Carolyn, and begin its humble origins in my Gwinnett community. I am so appreciative of the following people who guided me along this journey. My deepest thanks are extended to Sallie Boyles, Editor; Amanda Sutt, Rock, Paper, Scissors; Carole Townsend; Jackie White; George Scott, Books for Less; Meg Earhart, Sparkle Designs; and Susan Sikes, Sikes & Davis Interiors.

Milestone birthday – The Big 5-0 – completed Monday, September 29, 2014

Birthday's over the 50 years

Birthday’s over the 50 years

Yes, I turned the big 5-0 this year along with the overwhelming majority of my Class of ‘82 friends across the globe. We’ve traded in our big, poufy hair, oversized sweatshirts slung over one shoulder, Members-Only jackets, parachute pants, and stilettos with bobby socks for Smooth Down or any other hair care product that creates sleek, smooth locks, hair color with high, medium and low lights, push-up bras (or if you had more of a disposable income, breast augmentation), Spanx, Clark shoes, clothing made of Lycra, and perhaps a little Botox.

In my opinion, age is just an indicator of your chronological state and not a reflection of your true spirit and state of mind. My Dunwoody High School Latin teacher, Mrs. Gilchrist would be proud that I still remembered a lesson from class. Rene’ Descartes’ famous quote is: “Cogito ergo sum,” translated means, “I think, therefore I am.” So, I have concluded that I don’t feel or act like I’m fifty, therefore I am not!

More importantly, I have found that some of my dear friends have also adopted this manner of thinking, too. As a result, they are dropping their former careers and bravely kick-starting new ones. Kris, a former pediatric nurse practitioner, hung up her stethoscope and traded it in for a pair of running shoes, swimming suit and a bike. She has always loved participating in marathons (winning many races in her age category) and eventually graduated to triathlons to include competing in the notorious Iron Man in Hawaii. This year, Kris combined her knowledge of science and medicine with her love of sports and became an Endurance/Triathlete Coach.

My Kappa Kappa Gamma sorority sister, Tréci was always known for her passion for music and for playing her guitar. This past summer, she and her partner, Holly made a huge leap. They decided to sell their beautiful home in Arizona and moved to Nashville, home to Country music, so Tréci could pursue her life dreams as a singer/songwriter.

Teresa, a Dunwoody High School friend and former nurse in Alabama, also traded in her stethoscope for a pair of hair shears and make-up brushes. She wanted to be a stylist and go to cosmetology school for as long as she could remember. I was overjoyed when Teresa shared that she’d enrolled into school and even received academic achievements in her pursuit of a new chapter in her life. And, as I was writing this blog, I learned that 12/11/14 was her last day at cosmetology school. Congratulations, Teresa!!

At the tender age of fifty, these strong women followed their hearts and dared to live a life they always dreamed of. To me, that’s one of the best birthday presents you can give yourself, to be true to your authentic self and to not be afraid to share your God given talents with this world. They were brave and let go.

Bucket List Item – Swimming with dolphins and manatee – completed Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Jeff & I swimming with dolphins, Cozumel, Mexico

Jeff & I swimming with dolphins, Cozumel, Mexico

Traditionally, Jeff and I host Thanksgiving at our home. When we learned that my parents were going to be in California visiting friends during this time, we opted to also pack our bags and set sail for the Western Caribbean. Swimming with dolphins and manatee were on both of our Bucket Lists, so we signed up for the excursion and had a memorable day swimming among these gentle, oceanic creatures. We had such a great time making new acquaintances and sight-seeing in Honduras and Mexico that we even signed up to take an Alaskan cruise next year to celebrate our 10th year anniversary.

If these past fifty years have taught me anything, it’s that life is about being brave and letting go – being open to new experiences, even though they may scare us a little. The unknown becomes a new familiar if you’re not afraid to open the door and pass through it. So, feel free to channel your inner-Elsa and braid your hair into a ponytail (or clip on a faux one!) and sing at the top of your lungs, “Let it go!” Because when you do truly let go, you’ll learn that God has planned an amazing journey for you. You may encounter a few bumps, hills and dark days, but ultimately they will pass just like gray, stormy days give way to vivid, colorful ones filled with sunshine.

I hope you dare yourself to tackle a new challenge in 2015. If so, I’d love to hear about it!
“What great thing would you attempt if you knew you could not fail?”
– Rev. Robert H. Schuller

Thank you from the bottom of my heart for all of your love, support, and comments. I wish you and your families a very Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays and a Happy New Year!
~ Katie

Next blog release date: January, 2015

Music Credit:
Howie Mitchell & Charlotte Williams
“Instrumental” – Album: 11-14-’58
Source: http://freemusicarchive.org/music/Howie_Mitchell__Charlotte_Williams/Howie__Charlotte_Williams_11-14-58/

Conquering the Ragnar

Ragnar Relay Adventure Racing

Ragnar Relay Adventure Racing

Conquering the Ragnar
“From the Heart” Guest Blogger: Kris Kester, Endurance/Triathlete Coach

Last month I participated in a Ragnar relay. A Ragnar relay is a 200 mile, 12 person, overnight running relay in which each person runs 3 “legs” or sections which can vary from 3 miles in length to 8 miles. There are 15 different Ragnar relays held yearly in the United States, with over 100,000 fellow crazy people who run them. The relay I signed up for was in Cape Cod, Massachusetts.

Ragnar is named for a Viking warrior from the 1st century. He apparently was a fierce fighter who died by being thrown into a pit of snakes. Not sure why they picked him to name this event after as it is more about fun and making friends, but it sounds cool. This was my second Ragnar that I have done so I guess the first one wasn’t so bad. I am amazed by the whole event. It is a logistical nightmare that somehow works and is a great time for all involved.

From a psychologist’s point of view it is amazing that you can put seven strangers in a small van for two days under stressful conditions (no sleep, stiff legs, smelly, sweaty clothes), and they can all get along and laugh alot. I suppose it is the shared purpose, or perhaps temporary insanity that one would even sign up for an event as this? Whatever the case, I was impressed by our group of men and women, half of us over the age of 45, who participated in this run.

Adventure racing in the United States has exploded in the past ten years, with races ranging from extreme challenges to fun, family oriented events. Women are the minority in these events, and especially women over the age of 45. In my experience as a triathlete for 25 years and finisher of the Hawaii Ironman; women are equally capable, sometimes better than men, at accomplishing endurance events.

In the past few years, there has also been an increase in the number of races, both running and multisport, that are geared specifically to women, regardless of their age. In my personal and coaching experience, I have found that women like to train and race with other women, it becomes a group effort, and the atmosphere is more collaborative than cutthroat. I encourage you to set a goal, find some friends to help you accomplish that goal, and you will feel a tremendous sense of accomplishment.

I was asked, before I left for the trip why I would want to do something like this and not try to “win” it. That is a valid question that made me stop and think. I can’t answer for everyone else but I feel that trying to win an event like this defeats the purpose. I sign up to challenge myself to run the distances that I say I will, to see how my body will hold up after little to no sleep, and most importantly to meet a new group of like-minded (okay, crazy) individuals who are outside my usual sphere of influence. After all, trophies and medals are great but it is the memories and friendships, things which can’t be bought or “won,” that mean the most. A weekend where you can leave the desk and computer behind and just be a kid again, acting silly, wearing costumes, cheering on teammates, sleeping in a tent with girlfriends, and eating snacks.

Perhaps that is why these events have grown in popularity the past few years, people are seeking connections in our world that has plenty of social media but lots of loneliness. We are a goal driven society and this bizarre adventure fulfills some of those “bucket list” goals. Lastly, after struggling through the tough parts of this race, you can cross the finish line and celebrate with all your new friends. You even get a medal that doubles as a bottle opener! I think we all need some adventures in our life, we need to come out of our comfort zone, and do something crazy sometimes.

If you are interested in finding an adventure race or relay, you find out more information on these websites:
http://www.ragnarrelay.com
http://www.trifind.com
http://www.active.com

Depending on the event you are interested in, you may need to buy some equipment and pay an entry fee. For a Ragnar relay or similar race, the entry fee is about $100 per person, and then you split the other costs such as gas, van rental if needed, water and snacks. Our team captain gave us a training plan 3 months out from the race that we could use as a guide. It is helpful to have some run training started before you commit to a race such as Ragnar.

Kris Kester, Endurance/Triathlon Coach, Atlanta, GA

Kris Kester, Endurance/Triathlon Coach, Atlanta, GA

Kris Kester is an Endurance/Triathlon Coach in Atlanta, GA. She has competed at the World Championship level in all distances of triathlons, from Olympic distance to the Hawaii Ironman. She is a personal coach for triathletes of all levels, races for the Roswell Bikes triathlon team, and is an assistant coach for a kids triathlon team (Multisport Explosion).

For more information, please email Kris at kriskester@charter.com or visit http://www.trigeekcoaching.weebly.com