Happy Trails!

By Stacy Thompson

If you’ve read my earlier posts, you know that I enjoy a good hike and, even better, a good challenge.  Although I’ve always loved the outdoors, hiking only recently became a favorite pastime, as I decided to follow in the footsteps of a pretty incredible mother (mine) who felt the pull of the peak.  Since her first climb six years ago, we’ve been on some incredible journeys together – but in finding joy in our journey, we have to prepare and prepare hard.  In truth, the hikes are amazing, but our prep time together is the greatest gift that leads to our ultimate goal.

So how do two land-locked, Lexington County natives living at 292 feet prepare for Machu Picchu (7,972 feet), base camp of Mt. Everest/Kala Patthar (18,514 feet) and Kilimanjaro (19,431 feet)??? One foot in front of the other, in stairwells, steps and trails anywhere and everywhere we can find them!  Maybe our fellow hikers with the benefit of high altitudes in the vicinity have an advantage, but we make the most of what we have available to us, and to date we have met every challenge.

Here are a few of our favorite spots to train and enjoy the outdoors in the Midlands (leaving out the parking garage, of course!)—

  • Columbia Canal and Riverfront Park – still a work in progress and still recovering from the Great Flood – the flattest path you’ll find and a great place to train for a 5k, 10k or ½ marathon – particularly nice on cooler days, as most of the paths are sun-filled!
  • Sesquicentennial State Park – probably better for the bikers, but these trails are accessible and have campsites available for overnights, if that’s your thing
  • Congaree National Park – I’ve only explored the shorter trails and the area by kayak, but plan to venture further into the area to see what this National Park has to offer
  • Cayce Riverwalk – accessible from the amphitheater off Gervais or the lot off Naples in the Avenues of Cayce – one of the easier boardwalks and trails for bikers, runners, hikers and dog-walkers – this trail is continuing to improve/expand and cannot be missed – and speaking of ‘don’t miss,’ be sure to check out the chainsaw artistry of Wade Geddings while you take in the beauty of the Congaree
  • Timmerman Trail – venture down the 12th Street Extension in Cayce toward SCANA to find this gem of a trail – eventually downtown Soda City will meet River Rat as the Timmerman Trail / Cayce Riverwalk will join with the Columbia Canal and Riverfront Park for miles and miles of enjoyment – until then, Timmerman Trail does not disappoint!
  • Harbison State Park – we’ve been hiking the park for a couple of years now, but still manage to find new areas, new parts to get (semi) lost in, and new trails that have us marveling that we are still within the county limits! Trails for bikes, hikes and pups – what could be better (nothing, based on the look on my boy Lincoln’s face!)  There are trails for newbies, those wanting a little challenge and those looking to take it to the next level!

 

Introducing the Nation’s Newest STAR: Columbia, South Carolina

By Mary Pat Baldauf

Allow me to introduce the state’s first STAR certified community, my employer, the City of Columbia.LOGO_Best_star_seal_3star_r

STAR Communities, the nation’s leading framework for sustainability and certification program for evaluating local sustainability, recently recognized the City of Columbia for achieving a three-STAR rating. This achievement makes Columbia the first STAR-certified community in South Carolina and only the 64th in the country.

STAR Communities provides support as localities benchmark progress, and a robust third-party verification process ensures accountability. STAR helps communities evaluate their strengths and weaknesses across seven areas: the built environment; climate and energy; economy and jobs; education, arts and community; health and safety; and natural systems. There are over 500 outcomes and actions that comprise the evaluation.

Several items stood out among Columbia’s sustainability initiatives:

The December award presentation was the culmination of a two-year journey that began in September 2015. Personally, this was the first major project I took from start to finish after returning to work from my rehabilitation from a ruptured brain aneurysm in March 2015. And while the certification is certainly a personal victory, it’s also a big darn deal for the City of Columbia and our community partners.

STAR Award to City Council

With the certification, Columbia becomes a member of a pretty exclusive club. Fewer than 70 local governments have been certified with STAR Communities. Other STAR certified communities in the Southeast include Atlanta, Birmingham, Louisville, Memphis, Raleigh and Winston-Salem.

“We are incredibly excited and proud to be the first city in South Carolina to achieve a STAR rating,” said Mayor Steve Benjamin. “Our City staff and community have proven their commitment to making Columbia increasingly sustainable across a variety of performance areas, and this recognition provides us with an assessment backed by data that will help us determine our next steps. Through our Climate Action Protection Campaign (CAPC) and other programs, we will continue in our bold commitment to protecting our planet and fulfill our responsibility to our children, their children and beyond.”

The City’s participation in STAR was underwritten by grant from Siemens Cities Center of Competence (CoC), which is dedicated to working with cities to undertake key challenges as cities strive for economic growth and long-term sustainability.

For additional information, check out the City of Columbia’s STAR dashboard.
 

5 Tips to Safely Watch the Solar Eclipse

By: Kristen Nida, Guest Contributor

On Monday, August 21, 2017, all of North America and parts of South America, Africa and Europe will be treated to an eclipse of the sun. Luckily for our community, Columbia, SC will have the longest total solar eclipse on the East Coast! While you are surely excited to witness this rare event, follow these tips to make sure you are doing so safely.

  1. Use Eclipse-Viewing Glasses: This eclipse might be a once-in-a-lifetime event, but remember that you also only get one set of eyes in your lifetime. If you plan to view the eclipse, you must obtain a pair of eclipse glasses or handheld solar viewers, which should meet international safety standards. Ordinary sunglasses, no matter how dark, should not be used as a replacement for eclipse-viewing glasses or handheld solar viewers. For those of you who wear glasses, make sure to keep those on and put the eclipse glasses over them. Here is a link find to NASA-approved glasses
  2. Use Filters Properly: Stand still and cover your eyes with your eclipse glasses or solar viewer before looking up at the sun. After looking at the sun, turn away and remove your filter. The important thing to remember is to not remove it while you are looking at the sun.
  3. Drive safely: It sounds obvious, but be extra careful while driving during the solar eclipse. Do not look attempt to look at the sun while you are driving – even with eclipse glasses. Do not attempt to take photos of the eclipse while you are driving. Instead, exit the roadway and park in a safe area away from traffic to view the eclipse. If you must be in the car, prevent temptation by putting the sun visor down to block your view, and turn on your headlights when it gets dark.
  4. Don’t Forget Your Sunscreen: You can still get sunburned even when it’s not bright outside. Wear sunscreen and stay hydrated if you’ll be outside for a while. Choose a sunscreen with at least 30 SPF and remember to reapply every two hours.
  5. Supervise Children: Always keep an eye on children using solar filters. Make sure they are using them properly at all times.

How to you plan to observe the eclipse? Let us know in the comments section!

An Every Woman Blog Reunion

Every Woman BloggerLast week, we hosted a dinner for the Every Woman Bloggers to celebrate the holidays and thank them for their dedication to our blog! It was a fun evening full of delicious food, wonderful stories, and a fun ornament exchange.

Our bloggers provide us with inspiration as they handle being mothers, wives, professionals, sisters, friends, and providers. Please join us in thanking them for sharing their lives with us!

Help Lexington Medical Center Reach 100,000 Views!

Have you seen Lexington Medical Center’s 2014 Christmas commercial yet? From thoughts about parenthood to the Christmas season, the commercial focuses on the importance of family – all from a baby’s perspective. We’re hoping to share this uplifting message of hope, health and joy with as many people as possible during the holidays. Our goal is 100,000 views. Please help us by watching the video on Facebook (here) and sharing the post with your family and friends.

Lexington Medical Center Christmas Commercial

This year’s commercial was filmed on the hospital campus. The 60-second spot features LMC staff members including doctors and nurses, and a cast of babies who were all born at the hospital. Children of LMC employees have speaking roles as the voices of the babies.

The commercial also highlights the exceptional maternity services at the hospital. Lexington Medical Center delivers more babies than any other hospital in the Midlands, and has been voted “Best Place to Have A Baby” by readers of Midlands news publications.

From our Lexington Medical Center family to yours, Merry Christmas.

No Regrets, The Early Years

By: Lydia Scott

Lydia ScottI guess at the age of 42, I can consider myself middle-aged. 42 years is plenty of time to make a bunch of decisions that don’t turn out too well. It’s also plenty of time to be able to find the silver lining among the dark clouds of bad ideas. There are things I fully regret, like that time I drank way too much at that party out of town. Ugh. Or going to work for that horrible man who felt I was too fat to work out front where his clients could see me. Or not gassing up my car that dark night when I was 16 and out past curfew. These are all insignificant events that lead to nothing but pain and humiliation. I could have matured without those, thank you very much!

On a larger scale, I’ve been through some things that I did have a choice in, but either didn’t go well or weren’t, in general, a happy experience. But I don’t regret them. This blog will focus on something that took up a lot of my early life and wasn’t the right thing for me. But I definitely don’t regret it. Even when I get mad about it, I still don’t regret it.

I spent well over 30 years as a very devout member of Jehovah’s Witnesses. Sure, I got into it because my parents were Witnesses, but in my mid-teens I made the conscious choice to stick with it, to the fullest extent possible. Now, I have to say first, this way of life works wonderfully for millions of people, and in no way am I knocking it. For me, however, it resulted in a lot of issues that lead to unhappiness, more bad decisions, and denying the mind I was born with. Eventually, in my mid-30’s, I did move on to a way of life that fit my persona better – agnosticism. For me, being a devout evangelical Christian in this religion was not a good idea. However, there were good things I learned and experienced from it, like:

  1. I learned how to thoroughly research an assigned topic; devise an outline for a 5 minute dialog about that topic; create a skit between me and another assigned person that had to be within 30 seconds of the 5 minute limit and accomplish the task of getting the point across with a defined beginning, body, and conclusion; then perform said skit on stage (with real microphones!) in front of about 100 other people, afterwards being critiqued on it and informed of what needed improvement. I did this as a preteen and continued on as long as I was a Witness. It has served me well in my career, without the “formal” education.
  2. I learned how to stand up for what I believed was right, even when every single other person around me, every single day, thought I was an idiot. Do you know how hard it is to have the last name of Valentine, but not celebrate Valentine’s day? I can’t tell you how many times, even as a grade schooler, I had to to say “no, thank you” to people who just felt sure I really needed cards, presents, and parties for all the holidays and birthdays they enjoyed and I didn’t. Did I feel left out? Absolutely. Do I now have a hard time knowing what to do for all these celebrations, yet have an insane need to participate in the fun? Absolutely. Am I glad I learned how to stand up for my beliefs, even though I eventually outgrew them? Definitely!
  3. I learned discipline. We had meetings three days a week, every week, plus the “field ministry” (going door to door to talk about spiritual topics with strangers) a minimum of one morning a week. So yeah, even as a child, I was well-behaved and spiritual with a bunch of other people on at least four of the seven week days. I had to get dressed in fancy clothes (basically Sunday church-going clothes) for everything. I had to make sure I had all of my materials, like a Bible, a song book, publications we’d be reviewing, and a book bag. I had to study the assigned materials before each meeting so that I could participate. Participate, for the general audience, meant raising your hand to answer the questions voiced by the conductor of the meeting (usually provided in the assigned study material). If you could read, you could study and prepare your comments. If you weren’t old enough to read, mom and/or dad would help you practice giving a simple one or two word answer to a question they felt would work well for you. The conductors of the meetings would make a point to look for the tiny hands being held up amongst the 100 or so faces in the audience.

All of these things played a major role in many of the positive habits I have as an adult. Granted, there are parts of what I experienced that played a negative role, but hey…nothing is 100% positive, right?  And this blog series is focusing on the good stuff.

My next blog post will deal with my experience later in life with psychiatric treatment facilities, which was not fun either. But I learned some things from my experiences there that I didn’t expect.

I’d love to hear from some of you. What things did you experience that weren’t positive, or weren’t good ideas, but  taught you some valuable lessons?

Kale Chronicles

By: Elizabeth Webber Akre

kale

Earlier in the summer, I planted 3 kale plants. Several people questioned me about this.

“Isn’t it too hot here for kale?”

“Isn’t it really hard to grow?”

“How are you going to get that to work?”

Well, here we are mid-July and my tomatoes are over 7’ tall and producing next to nothing, my cucumbers are producing nothing but flowers, my zucchini is just toying with me as it slowly commits suicide, and the poblanos just flower away and laugh at the thought of actually putting out a pepper. But, my little kale plants just keep growing and growing and growing!

A few days ago, it was time to harvest again and from those three little plants, I got a gracious helping of fresh kale. Usually I just make kale chips for myself because every other time I’ve tried a dish involving kale, the husband and little one reject it. I’d pretty much just resigned myself to the belief that I am the sole kale consumer in this house. However, I stood there gazing at this beautiful, tender, fresh home-grown loveliness and thought, “How crazy is this? One of planet Earth’s superfoods and I’m the only one eating it? Not today.”

I’ve written before about one of the most awesome cookbooks in my collection, “How to Cook Without a Book” by Pam Anderson. I can’t remember where I found this book, but I truly love it and I recommend it highly. As you have surely gathered from the title, the point is to teach some basic recipes and techniques so that you can incorporate these standards into your regular life without having to put much thought into it. I often go here for inspiration and fresh ideas. On this day, I pulled the book out because Ms. Anderson has included numerous variations to the theme for each of her basic recipes. So for lunch, I turned our kale harvest into a simple pasta with leafy greens, bacon and crushed red pepper. I told no one what the greens were. I simply said, “Here honey, have some pasta” and down the hatch it went! I have been on a conscious quest to get more dark leafies into our household diet, so this was a big win.

If you don’t know much about kale, I’ll say this: it’s really, insanely good for you. If you’re like me and want to eat more of it and its other dark leafy cousins, you can get all the info you want online. Or, here’s another of my favorite cookbooks you may wish to seek out, “Leafy Greens” by Mark Bittman.

Elizabeth Akre is the author of “Gastronomy (by a Wanna-be Chef)”. Read, comment & be merry!  You can also follow on Twitter and Facebook.