' Adventures with FitNyx: 2014

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

2014 Year in Review: Blogging

Whew!  What a whirlwind this year has been - four jobs, in four different areas; twenty races; two major licensing workshops; and TONS of cool events and classes!  And of course, in the middle of it all, this humble blog, which started in early August, thrived through September and October, then got caught up in the many life decisions and changes I had to make throughout the last couple months of the year.  I have promised myself I would make blogging a greater priority in 2015, and that is still the plan, but let's take a look at what I've accomplished in 2014 first!

Posts this year: 100!!

Race Recaps: 13

Event Recaps: 6

Product Reviews: 4

Giveaways: 5

Blog Affiliations: 5

Most-viewed post: MESTRENGTH Product Review and Giveaway

My favorite post: Magnificent Mile Half Marathon Race Recap

Hardest post to write: Pro Compression Product Review

What I'm most proud of on the blog: The fact that I stuck with it, even if there were rough patches or times I didn't write as often as I'd liked.  I've started blogs before but they never last more than a couple days; this one is four months and counting!  It runs parallel with my new-found love of racing: I'm learning how to make a commitment to something that really matters to me.

What I'd like to work on in the new year: Posting more regularly.  I've had a lot of excuses in 2014, and I know the start of 2015 will be a little rocky too (until we get the puppy better trained), and I want to start *making* the time to write, not just *finding* the time.  That's an important distinction to me, and as I start to prioritize this wonderful new "personal time" I finally have, blogging will be taking a huge leap forward in the list.

Thank you all for reading, for commenting, for pushing me, and for inspiring me!  It's been a fun ride so far, and I can't wait to keep moving forward with y'all in the new year!  Be safe tonight, see you next year!

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

2014 Year in Review: Cross Training

Signing up for WAY too many races was only the start of what rapidly grew into a fitness-focused lifestyle this year.  Mud run experiences early in the year opened my eyes to the need for full-body training, and as I got more invested in fitness, I started taking more opportunities to cross train.  Having the chance to try ClassPass opened a lot of doors, and I got to try things I never would have dreamed were even an option!

Favorite Group-Ex Class: Core Fusion Barre at Exhale Chicago.  I went back as often as I could while I still worked downtown!  It's the kind of class I have actually considered making the two hour round-trip every week just to experience the energy and enthusiasm of my favorite instructor John!  I've also purchased hand-held weights just so I can try to recreate the class on my own here at home.  It's always a difficult workout, but John always knew the right way to push me towards greater results!

Least Favorite Group-Ex Class: AIR Fitness.  OH man.  I felt awful after this class, and ended up never going back.  Maybe it was the ropes cutting into my legs, maybe it was the 24 hour nausea that followed, but something about AIR was just a total turn-off.  Sometimes I think maybe I should have gutted out a couple more sessions, but mostly I'm thankful I never went back!  At least I got a really cool photo though...

Most Life-Altering Group-Ex Class: Yoga Jams at gratitudeYOGA.  I'd had a couple experience with yoga prior to finding Lisa at gratitudeYOGA, but until my first Yoga Jam I never thought yoga would be "my thing."  But something clicked that morning, and I found some clarity and self-discovery that surprised me and truly touched me.  I went back every chance I got, and even found a way to bring some gratitude into my old office.  Lisa has changed my life in so many ways, and I can't wait to see her again - this is definitely a class I would make the long trip downtown to keep taking!

Favorite Moment as an Instructor: PlayStreets Zumba!  Of course, another aspect of my class experience this year has been teaching group ex classes as a Zumba instructor!  Though I only complete my licensing at the end of April, I've repeatedly managed to find opportunities to teach all over the city!  I started at the Y, found myself at a dance studio downtown for a while, and most recently picked up several classes right here in my own neighborhood - but the most fun I've had teaching this year was the charity class I did for PlayStreets this summer.  Not only does PlayStreets offer an amazing cause, but the children and parents who stopped in to dance with me were all a total blast!  I haven't seen so many smiles all in one place in....  well, maybe EVER!

What I'm most excited for in 2015: This is a toughy.  I'm torn between my new Z classes (I even get to finally lead a Zumba Step class!) and the opportunity to put together my OWN cross training program.  I won't likely have as many crazy class options, but I definitely will have the chance to get in touch with my trainings needs on a more personal level, and that is definitely exciting!

Primary goal for next year: Cross training is more than just workouts - it's nutrition as well.  Though 2014 found me much more conscious of what I put into my body, and saw me perfecting the art of the homemade smoothie, I have a LONG way to go before my nutritional efforts can properly complement my activity efforts.  I'd really like to pull this last piece of the puzzle into place over the next twelve months, even though I know it'll be incredibly difficult.

How did you cross train in 2014?  Did you have an experience that really made an impact on your training or even on your life?  What's in store for your 2015??

Monday, December 29, 2014

2014 Year in Review: Racing

My first year of endurance racing has been crazy and amazing!  I've learned so much about myself and pushed well past what I previously thought were my limits, and I've racked up some numbers I never thought I'd see in my life!

Total mileage (since starting the hobby in April): 134.5 miles

Month with the most mileage: August (51.87 miles)

Month with the least mileage: July (4.17)

Longest run: 13.1 miles

Total number of races completed: 20

Number of 5k races completed: 15

5k PR time: 29:08 (A Race for Maggie's Place)

Number of 10k races completed: 2

10k PR time: 1:02:19 (#Run10Feed10)

Number of 15k races completed: 1

15k PR time: 1:52:32 (Hot Chocolate 15k)

Number of half marathons completed: 1

Half PR time: 2:44:40 (Chicago Women's Half)

Oddball distance races completed: 1 (Fort2Base 10NM)

Favorite race this year: Honestly, a tough pick.  Probably a three-way tie...

Least favorite race this year: Muddy Monk Thriller 5k

Accomplishment of which I am most proud:  Besides actually starting the fitness hobby in the first place, it's easily running my first half marathon with my dad.  I didn't meet my goal time, but I finished the race (and so did he) despite soaring temperatures, minimal training, and a lack of properly-fitted shoes!  I proved to myself that I can complete 13.1 miles, and now I'm itching to do it again!

Primary goal for next year: To be more consistent.  To actually *train* instead of just running when I feel like it.

Speaking of training, tomorrow I'll be posting a look back at my experience with cross-training this past year, including fitness classes and nutrition, before wrapping up my Year in Review with a look at my blog's performance in its first year!  See you tomorrow!

Thursday, December 25, 2014


Or whatever your holiday is - I hope it's going (or went, or will go) fantastically!!!

We had a modest Christmas here, since the big "present" was the puppy last week...  But I still got a stocking full of healthy treats and a fancy new heart monitor from my dad!  This monitor will be fantastic for helping me better gauge the intervals in my Zumba class playlists, to help maximize the effect of interval training.

Some new adventures and some old favorites!

Thank you to my parents, my husband, my brother and his fiancee, my new friends at work, and everyone else who has helped to make my December the highlight of an already wonderful year!

Stay tuned next week for my Year In Review posts, looking back at some of the highlights of the past twelve months and reflecting on the many ways I have grown!

How did you make your Christmas special?  Any particularly exciting gifts or events?

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Quick Update

Hi friends!

Once again I have failed to gain the consistency I had wanted in my blogging - though as usual I am convinced I have a "good excuse.". This time it is my adorable puppy keeping me from my keyboard, and quite literally!  Since we can't pull up the carpet in the basement, we aren't taking Kaalia down there until she's more reliably trained, so I spend most of my time upstairs supervising her.  Thankfully she is learning quickly, and I anticipate having a little more freedom soon!

In the meanwhile, despite giving up running/gym time to take care of Kaalia, I've still found some Zumba opportunities and am working on some new routines to premier in the new year!  I'm also testing some products which I will review in the coming weeks.  Work is becoming a reliable routine and I'm finding a nice groove.  Once the puppy training wraps up, I think I will FINALLY be ready to make my fitness lifestyle a real priority.

Ideas or suggestions for what you'd like to see in the new year???

Tuesday, December 16, 2014


I apologize for missing the post I had planned for Sunday - something wonderfully unexpected happened.


Finally!  It's been about a year since our old dog, which my husband had owned for 18 years, passed away of a sudden stroke.  There have been many reasons to postpone finding a new pet, but now there are no more excuses: I live close enough to home to come let her out until she's housebroken, we don't have any vacations or travel planned, and the house is (sort of) in well enough order that we don't have to work too hard to puppy-proof.

So without further ado...  Meet Kaalia, the latest addition to our family!

She loooooooooves smooches!

A border collie and German shepherd mix, she's beautiful and intelligent.  We've had her for about 48 hours and she has already learned (and responds to consistently): sit, come, down, bring it (a variation on fetch), and her name!  We are SO proud of her progress so far!  I can't wait for warmer weather, I'm going to have a blast training her to do agility tricks...  PLUS, she'll be big enough that she can run with me sometimes!

She does still have a lot of work to do with housebreaking, though.  We've had numerous accidents, which is of course to be expected with a three month old puppy, but I feel confident that in a few weeks she'll be much more reliable.  In the meantime, we've pulled up the carpet in the living room (it was never tacked down, so that wasn't too tough) so as to prevent any staining.  Unfortunately we can't do the same in the basement, which is our usual chill space, but hopefully by the time she learns how to navigate stairs, it won't be such a problem.

Her favorite chair and blanket.  Cozy!

We feel like we won the pet adoption lottery, especially after a very positive vet experience today.  She's fit as a fiddle, sharp as a tack, and pretty as a princess!  You'll be seeing a lot more of my favorite gal in the coming weeks as she grows and develops as part of the family!

What's your favorite thing to do with your pet?  Does he/she run with you?  

Friday, December 12, 2014

Five Things Friday: Reasons I LOVE My New Job!!!

I can't stop raving about how great this new job has been for my life.  So I'm gonna throw out the top five things I love about it, and call it a day, so I can go back to focusing on all the crazy new fitness opportunities that are cropping up these days!

#5: No more commuting!

I loved my old office for many reasons, but I hated it too - mostly because it usually took me an hour and a half, via public transit, to get there, and another hour and a half (if I left at a good time) to get back home.  On delay days, it could take up to three hours in either direction.  The worst part was, that commuting time isn't really "usable time" like people who don't commute often think.  Being crammed into a corner on an over-filled train car is NOT conducive to reading, crafting, or working most days.  Now, though, I'm a mere five minutes from home, ten minutes if I get stuck at every light.  And I get to drive myself, so there's no freezing cold train platforms or obnoxious other passengers, just me and my music and my free will to do what I want!

Blissfully not a part of my life anymore!

#4: Fun tasks and interesting projects - with actual structure!

Being an office manager (my previous jobs) was never the same day to day, there was always some new issue or problem to address, and by "some" I truthfully mean HUNDREDS.  There were days when I did everything from ordering to hiring to IT support to janitorial work to property management.  And everything in between, and usually it was putting out fires.  Not so much anymore: my new job as an account coordinator affords me a very well-defined and structured role, with a workday that is not only manageable, but predictable.  I know what types of tasks I will encounter, and what types of requests will never fall on my plate; yet within my designated role, there is still tons of variety!  I now work with promotional products, and it's surprisingly fascinating.  I kind of love sorting through thousands of products to find something that's juuuuust right for a particular customer's needs and audience!  And bonus: I've picked up some mad Photoshop skillz.

Need something for YOUR brand?  Just ask, I can hook you up!

#3: Time for my husband and my hobbies!

With all the time commuting (see #5) and the crazy packed work days (see #4) of previous jobs, I struggled to find time for my family and my personal pursuits.  Sure, I still raced or took fitness classes when I could, but I did far less than I'd intended, and barely even had time to write short posts for this blog.  I certainly wasn't even close to having time for my crafting.  The majority of my scant free time went to my husband, and even that wasn't much.  "Work-life balance" was totally non-existent.  These days, though, I'm actually getting bored with all my new-found free time!  Hubbsy might even be getting sick of me already!  But I'm finally able to pursue my crafting (so far I'm about 80 squares into a blanket), find some consistent Zumba classes (adding at least two starting in January), get some work done around the house (like organizing my craft studio UGH), and start using my gym membership (treadmills over freezing any day)!  It's so nice to have a life again...

Sooooooo many squares...

#2: Amazing teammates!

Okay this isn't different from previous jobs, per se, but it's always a perk to love the people and the environment around which you spend eight hours a day!  This office enjoys a loose dress code, a great sense of humor, a true feeling of teamwork and support, and some of the friendliest, silliest people I've ever met!  Plus, I'm pretty sure I'm getting an awesome new BFF out of the deal...

Yes, it truly is.  Thanks everypony!

#1: I get to leave work AT WORK!

Being on-call 24/7 is just about the worst thing ever.  Having to "stay as long as it takes no matter what" is terrible.  Being able to leave at 5 and not have to stay alert for emails or other requests all night?  BLISS.  True bliss.  My phone almost never rings anymore - and I LIKE IT.  I'm not constantly worried something is going to break in the middle of the night and I'm going to have to fix it.  I'm not worried that my work day will carry on so late that I won't even be able to get home in a safe and reasonable manner.  No one is pressuring me to give up meaningful commitments, or come in when I'm horribly sick, just to fix some random problem that probably could have waited a day or two anyway.  Work stays where it belongs: at my desk at the office.  My stress level hasn't been so low in... years, probably.  Maybe not since pre-high school.  I feel like a different person.  I sincerely hope this feeling lasts for a long, long time...

Awww, yissssssss!

And there you have it!  Now that I've adequately gushed about my shiny new job, it's back to working out and making stuff!  What's your favorite part of your job?  How do you find the work-life balance?

Monday, December 8, 2014

A recipe! And it's maybe a little healthy!

I loooooooove chocolate brownies.  Love 'em.  I'll eat a whole pan in a sitting.  If I even let them bake - I'm pretty addicted to brownie batter, too.  Back in college, my friend Natalie and I would mix up brownie batter and eat it while we marathoned Dr Who.  We would have baked it, but the dorm with an oven was a whole 50 steps away, so we took the lazy route.

We didn't want to walk away from this - can you blame us?

Recently, the brownie craving has been rearing its ugly head.  But once again, laziness got the better of me, and I decided running out to the store for brownie mix was too much effort.  I didn't really have the right ingredients (including chocolate) for homemade brownies, but I did have some interesting substitutes lying around - so I decided to get a little crafty in the kitchen.

A few weeks ago I won a Puritan's Pride giveaway prize pack from fellow blogger Ironwoman Strong.  Included in my winnings was a pouch of Carob Powder, of which I hadn't heard previously.  After doing a little research, I learned that carob powder makes a good substitute for chocolate because it's lower in fat, naturally sweet (so you can cut down on sugar in your recipes), high in fiber, and doesn't have an caffeine.  Since I'm pretty sensitive to caffeine, this carob stuff sounded like a good solution, but I questioned how similar the taste would be to real chocolate.

I pulled a few other ingredients together but realized I also was missing sugar!  Instead, I found a bag of Truvia from a previous baking experiment and decided to go substitution crazy.  Previously I've written some of my own recipes, working around favorites I borrowed from my mom, so I tackled the brownie challenge with gusto and came up with the following:

3/4 cup vegetable oil
1 cup Truvia
1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
3 eggs
3/4 cup flour
1/3 cup carob powder
1/4 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt

With the oven preheating to 350 degrees, I mixed the oil, truvia, extract, and eggs in one bowl while I combined the rest of the ingredients in another.  I slowly added the dry mix to the egg mix until it was all well combined.  My brownies baked in a greased 13" x 9" pan for about 26 minutes.  Next time, I'll probably put them in for less time, as my research hadn't told me that the carob powder can burn pretty easily and my brownies came out a little overdone.  BUT - they tasted like chocolate brownies!  And that was the goal, so I consider this a whopping success!

I'm not 100% sure these are healthier than the alternative, but the experiment helped me see that substitutions don't ruin flavors.  That's one of the major reasons I've been hesitant to try any of the hundreds of "healthy recipes" that claim to mimic the junk I've always loved: I was worried the healthy substitutes would be lacking in flavor.  Maybe I can start trying more substitutions to see if I can finally get over my biggest roadblock in my fitness journey...  Really, it's about time I started eating a little better...

So who's got a healthy substitute recipe for me to try?!  I'm open to any dessert-y suggestions to start, and then I'll move on to real meals!  Have you ever tried carob powder in a recipe?

Thursday, December 4, 2014

December Life Realignment

Life has been crazy this year.  Everything has turned upside-down and inside-out more than once, and although for the most part the changes have led me in a positive direction, it's all left me pretty dazed.

This month, though, the changes have led to a situation that should finally allow me to settle a bit.  In fact, I may finally be able to establish one of those fancy "work-life balances" about which I've heard tell!  I started a new job on Monday - one that's barely five minutes from home, and won't require more than a typical 40 hour work week.  With this work schedule, I'll have so much more free time to work on my personal life.

Ain't it the truth?

I'm going to start small, to set the foundation before building up to bigger dreams.  First, I'm going to focus on my training in the new job.  It's a bit different from my past work experience, but so far I'm learning quickly and enjoying the tasks.  Once I'm in to my groove there, my fitness lifestyle will get a chance - I'll be able to start using my gym membership to establish better fitness habits, and I'll have more time (and less travel) to start teaching Zumba Fitness classes again!  I'll also be able to craft a little more, and I've got some great ideas that I just can't wait to make happen!

And of course, through all of this, my husband and I will have so much more time to connect.  My old commute could take hours each day, and on top of long hours on the job, we rarely had time or energy to do more than watch a movie together or maybe play a quick game.  Now, we can actually schedule date nights and have more fun together.  I've had a tight, stressful schedule for the vast majority of our marriage; it'll be wonderful to finally have a chance to connect again.

All in all, it should be a revitalizing, encouraging month.  I'm taking Michael Jackson's advice and making the change - which started with the job change.  It'll be fun to see where this takes me!

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Blog Challenge 30: Why I Blog

This prompt is largely an echo of my previous post about the best thing that happened this year, which was my decision to bring a higher level of fitness back into my lifestyle.

Blogging became a sort of accountability, while at the same time opening a doorway into a bigger community.  I was putting myself out there, in a way I had never expected I would, and I wasn't sure if it was a good idea.  Now, though - I'm thrilled I started this blog, and I'm excited not only by where it has taken me already, but by all the opportunities it has yet to provide.  Since the previously mentioned post already covered a lot more of my blogging motivations, I'm not going to rehash everything here.  Pop over to that older post to read all about it!

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Blog Challenge 29: What's In My Makeup Bag

Sooooooooo...  I don't really do the makeup thing, really.  I own tons, because every year I go through some inevitable "I'm gonna start wearing a tiny bit of makeup to work" phase and buy more stuff, but I never end up using any of it.  Just the other day, my husband was wondering what I would look like with some makeup.  Once my eyelid heals a little more (it's going well so far) and I feel comfortable putting something other than medicine on it, I'll give it a go.  Not that I have a clue what I'm doing, but I'll try anyway!

Since I don't have a makeup bag to share, here's a quick glimpse into the crazy collection I've amassed over the years:

Okay, so there IS a makeup bag in there.  But it's really just
additional storage, not an actual carry-with-me bag.

Blog Challenge Days 24-28

Catching up after a sun-filled vacation week!  Here goes!

11/24: Favorite Blogs

As with any "favorites" prompt, it's hard to choose.  I honestly don't think I have any "favorite" blogs; I love so many of my fellow bloggers, and everyone puts out some great stuff!  For this prompt, I'm choosing instead to direct y'all to one of the blogs that most inspired me to start my own blogging hobby: SuzLyfe.  Suz is a blogger who always gives it to you straight - she's fearless and honest, and that right there has earned so much of my respect.  She's also a great writer, and always has something interesting to discuss.  Following SuzLyfe earlier this summer inspired me to push myself a little further in my fitness goals, and ultimately gave me the courage to start posting my own writing.  She continues to inspire me to push myself and to BE myself, and I look forward to establishing a stronger bond with her as a peer!

11/25: Old Photo of Me

Okay it's not that old.  But I don't have any
older ones around right now to go waaaaaay back.
Deal with it.

11/26: Note to Someone

Dear Cori,

Thank you for EVERYTHING.  There have been times in my life when I didn't think I was going to make it through - but you were there for me, you stood by me even if you couldn't be there physically, and you kept me going.  The life I have today wouldn't have happened if I didn't have you as my best friend.  I'm so lucky to know you, and I can only hope I've helped you half as much as you have helped me over the years.  I love you like family, and always will, even if we have half the country between us!  Can't wait to see you again, hopefully soon!

<3, ME

11/27: What I Look Forward To

I'm a dreamer, and a very hopeful person, so I'm always looking forward to something.  Right now, I'm looking forward to starting my new job on Monday, which will give me a much better work-life balance so I can continue pursuing my hobbies.  I'm also looking forward to next year, when I turn this year's life progress into a more refined, well-oiled life machine.  I'm looking forward to my next race with my friends, and to the completion of my big crochet project (more on that later).  Tomorrow always brings something new and exciting, and I'm always ready with open arms!  Bring it on!

11/28: Places I've Traveled

Over many years as an athlete, I made it all over the country for tournaments and games...  But usually I only saw the fields and the hotels!  My family often vacationed in either Niagara Falls or Virginia Beach, but the most interesting place I've traveled is easily China.  I was fortunate to spend some time overseas in a study abroad program, and during my trip I was able to visit both major cities and tiny western provincial towns.  Writing about my time in China could easily be a week's worth of posts, so I'll just show y'all a small assortment of pictures, and if you'd like to know more, just ask!

I took about 6000 photos while I was there.  Here's five.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Blog Challenge Day 23: Favorite Childhood Book

A few days ago I mentioned my vast collection of dragons, and briefly discussed my love for all things mythological and fantastical.  Today's post is closely related, as I can say without a doubt that my favorite book from my childhood is Patricia C Wrede's wonderful Dealing With Dragons.

I first encountered this book as part of the Reader's Challenge program put on by the local library system.  Interested participants were expected to read a list of 30 books in a certain timespan, at the end of which each person was tested on their knowledge of details from those books.  Those with the best scores formed a team that would compete against the teams from other libraries in a trivia challenge.  The books spanned many genres and topics, some of which were definitely more interesting to me than others, but none more interesting than Dealing With Dragons, which was my first foray into young adult fantasy.

I never finished the whole list, but I fudged enough right answers to earn a spot as the team's alternate - y'know, in case something should happen to one of the other middle-schoolers before the big reading competition.  What kept me from finishing the books?  I was too busy re-reading this one over and over!  I was hooked.  Wrede's writing style, the compelling and admirable main character, and the cleverness of the story were intoxicating, I simply couldn't put it down!

The story follows a princess who, though lovely, wasn't the kingdom's typically vapid, courteous, well-mannered royal lady.  Cimorene was driven by a thirst for knowledge and adventure, and I love her.  I wanted to be like her, relentlessly pushing forward and doing what made her happy.  Eventually her distaste for the stuffy, narrow role expected of her in the castle, she flees in search of adventure, and finds it - when she becomes a dragon's princess.  The book left me wanting more, and I was pleased to find there was an entire series!

I've read them all, and re-read them all, countless times.  The characters and plots are constantly exciting, even fifteen years after I first cracked the spine.  My dragon collection began after this book; I even switched my jersey number after reading Dealing With Dragons, because five was considered a fashionable number in the kingdom of Linderwall!  For such a little-known series, Wrede's books have definitely had a profound effect in my life!

Do you have a favorite book, or one that touched your life deeply?  How did your reading habits shape your future?  Is anyone else as in love with Cimorene as I am?!

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Blog Challenge Day 22: Dream Job

I want to own and operate my very own fitness studio.

I've got it all planned out, right down to my ideal space designs and class schedules.  I know where I want to be located, and how I'm going to find instructors; I'm even planning special events for different times of year.  I have years of experience as a manager, as an administrator, as an athlete, and as a fitness instructor.  I have an ambitious "full-fledged" version of the plan, and I have several compromise plans in case the absolute dream proves to be insurmountably difficult to achieve.

The only thing I don't have is the money.

And isn't that always the catch?  So many people say "do what you love", especially in the age of the entrepreneur.  Heck, I just finished working for a tech start-up that was built from the ground up, and is filled with young people who are doing something they love.  But an equally large number of people believe you should "love what you do" - by which they usually mean, accept that having a dream job is only reserved for a small portion of the population, so when you are lucky enough to have a job, you should appreciate it for what it's worth.

I don't want to have to accept the "love what you do" mentality, because I have for so long lived in that world where kids with ideas get a head-start from wealthy or well-connected parents or spouses.  I've watched so many friends and acquaintances find a way to live their dreams, and I've noticed that is very rarely done completely on their own merit.  There are always people who are fully self-made, but they are the rare exception.  From my experience and observation, you have to be well-connected prior to starting on the path to your dream job.

For someone like me, that's not a personal reality like it is for the people around me.  And that's very frustrating.  I stand amid all those "do what you love" voices, but they don't understand that it's not so easy for everyone.  I have to work a daily-grind job to cover my expenses, and that leaves little time to pursue those methods of start-up capital that, while available and often in sufficient quantities, require a lot of effort to acquire.  If I had 40 hours per week to focus exclusively on making my studio a reality, and didn't have to worry about real-life concerns like bills, of course I'd find success.  I have plenty of passion and energy, plus the intelligence and personality to rally support for my cause.  What I don't have is the safety net - and sadly, I am starting to accept the possibility that I never will.

That said - my dream is my dream.  I'm taking the steps I can to get closer to the industry, to get more involved and more organized, and to build a personal database of knowledge and experience that can help propel me into success when the time is right.  I'm not going to let the odds against me scare me away from something I want so badly.  Not everyone in my life believes in my dream, and while that's sometimes hard to accept, in the end the only belief I need to push forward is my own.

So I'm going to keep pushing forward.  Wish me luck!

Friday, November 21, 2014

Blog Challenge Day 21: Best Thing That Happened This Year

This has been an excellent year in so many ways.

I could write about any number of very positive events, many of which had a profound effect on my life, but I think the number one thing on that list would have to be the decision to bring fitness back into my life.  It's a big "best thing" with a lot of facets, but I can say confidently that without having made that decision, I would be a lot worse off than I am right now.  And I'll warn you now, this post is gonna be a long one...

Having been a high-level athlete for the majority of my life, it wasn't like choosing a fitter lifestyle was a huge life-changing overhaul like it can be for many people.  The focus was more on returning to a place in mind and body that I had previously lived, and only after stepping out of that life had I realized how much a part of me it had been.  A couple years of overtime work grind and hundreds (maybe thousands) of commuter hours had taken their toll on my health, and it was starting to show.  I wanted that old life back.  Badly.

So I did something about it.  The first part of the decision started right around New Year's, when I made the choice to be a little more conscious of my food habits.  I bought a better blender, and started experimenting with smoothies to help me eat more fruits and vegetables, and to this day I'm still using that blender constantly.  I'm also avoiding purchasing snack foods, and focusing on eating meals instead of mindlessly nibbling.  While not all of my food choices are based on a healthy mindset, I am definitely doing much better than last year, and I'm proud of most of my day-to-day eating decisions.

My next phase in the "get healthier, get fitter" decision was to find a job related to health and fitness: I started working as a physical therapy assistant.  Truthfully, I lucked into the job - a local chiropractor was looking to replace his former assistant, and though I had no formal training, he was impressed with my athletic background and my willingness to learn.  He took a chance on me, and for a few months I was deeply immersed in the world of physical therapy and rehab.  I learned a lot about body mechanics, got a lot of hands-on time with patients, and realized I could happily enjoy a career in the fitness industry.  I started studying for personal training certifications as an adjunct to the information I was absorbing at work.  I also pulled the trigger on a long-time desire to get my Zumba instructor's license, which I earned in late April of this year.  I also added a Zumba Step license a few months later!

That's not me, but she accurately represents my feelings
after completing my licensing class!

Perhaps the most important part of the decision process this year was entering my first race event.  I was inspired by my father, who had chosen to live a fitness lifestyle almost a decade earlier, and by one of my physical therapy patients who was a prolific endurance athlete and an absolute joy of a person.  Team sports are tough when you're handling an adult life, especially a busy one; an individual sport, especially one you can train for alone, presented a way for me to stay competitive and push myself without having to match up my schedule with that of a team.

I decided to try something fun and low-pressure for my first event.  I also wanted to do more than just run at an event, because I knew I needed more cross training and would struggle without a set goal.  Thus was born my decision to enter a mud run: a mix of distance running, interspersed with obstacles to challenge me in other ways, while also breaking up all of that distance so I don't have to actually run 5k straight up my first time.  I started working more on my arms, since they've always been my weakest area, and I pushed myself to run around the neighborhood a little more often.  I didn't train as consistently as I'd wanted, but I still rocked my first run and NAILED the arm-intensive obstacles!

The monkey swing intimidated me, but I got across with no problem!

After that, I was hooked - I wanted more.  But I didn't want to limit myself to mud runs (though I did end up completing several other obstacle courses over the following months), and started signing up for trail races and regular road races.  Before long, I was able to complete a 5k without walking, much to my surprise!  And then, I was doing so in a good time.  And then, that time started to improve.  The more I ran, the better I felt about doing it, and the more I wanted to run.  I've said many times before on this blog that I never would have guessed how much I would end up enjoying being an endurance athlete!

Over the course of the year, I've run 18 events.  Though most of those have been 5k distance, including all my OCRs, I've started to branch out to longer distances.  This happened primarily because of the free entry I won for the Chicago Women's Half Marathon, which challenged me to try something I'd never thought possible.  I entered a much longer race before the half, and started to run longer distances at home, and quickly learned that hey, I COULD run 10k without stopping.  How 'bout that, I ran the Fort2Base 11.5 miles without stopping!  I finished the half, and only walked a little, even in 100+ degree heat!  Suddenly so much seemed possible, and I was making it happen.

And I made it happen with my dad at my side.  Amazing.

I'd accomplished so much!  But I wasn't done yet.  I started this blog as a next step on my fitness journey, and it opened up a whole new world to me.  Not only was I able to share my experiences and start creating a dialogue with the rest of the Chicago running community, but I was given opportunities to keep pushing and trying new things.  I was getting invites to group exercise events, to launch parties, to fashion shows; I was sent free stuff to try, free classes to take.  It was an overwhelmingly awesome feeling to suddenly be a part of something so much larger than myself.

I took to these new opportunities with relish.  ClassPass gave me an entire month to play around with cross training options, allowing me to try some things I hadn't even realized existed, like AIR fitness!  I stepped out of my comfort zone, and though it didn't always lead to a repeat attempt, every new experience helped me grow stronger in body, mind, and spirit.  I even found some heavy favorites, like Exhale's barre classes or yoga jams at gratitudeYOGA.  In fact, my experience with Lisa's yoga classes has opened up a part of me I didn't think I even had, and yoga has become a large part of my daily life.  Yoga is helping me find greater clarity and more inner peace than I've had in a long while, and it's all part of that decision waaaaaaay back to start taking better care of my health.

I've even found ways to bring yoga (and Lisa) into the office
to share with my work family.

Throughout the entire year, this pursuit of wellness has consistently brought one a wealth of new friends and acquaintances, too.  Though I've been in Chicago for a few years now, I've never really felt like I belong where I am, but that is rapidly changing.  Thanks to my running and blogging, I now have a handful of wonderful ladies I can confidently call my friends, and I can connect with them not only on a fitness level, but as people.  Knowing I'll find a friendly face at the finish line is a big push to perform and stay strong mid-race, but it's also a feeling I can take with me anywhere I go; whether it's a work day or a vacation, I know there are fun and caring people in my life.

That brings us up to date on my fitness journey thus far...  It's been an incredible year, founded on some vague goals with little clear direction.  I've learned so much about myself and about my capabilities, and I've pushed past more than a few limits to reach an entirely new realm of possibility.  This year is wrapping up and I'm very proud of how far I have come, but it's already time to start looking forward again, and I know my goals for next year will be much more concrete as my dedication continues to grow.  My 2014 has taken me on quite a ride, but 2015 is going to be absolutely out of this world!

Have some exciting highlights from 2014?  Did you reach a personal goal or learn something new?  Have you made a friendship that has helped shape your life?  I wanna hear about it!  Sharing makes the experience even better!

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Blog Challenge Day 20: Fave Foods

"Favorite" anything is a difficult call...  Likes and dislikes change so much over time, and even if you ask "what's your favorite right now" it's hard to pick!  Fortunately, I have a few favorites to share today, especially when the topic is FOOD.


I've mentioned before that my husband makes the world's best burger.  We stay very simple: meat, cheese, bun, ketchup, sometimes avocado, and occasionally we'll get fancy (and fattening) by throwing some mac'n'cheese on it too.  There's something so heartwarming about biting into the delicious layers...  Bonus if it's just coming off the grill as I'm walking in from work!

Mac'n'cheese should probably be on this list too...

Banana Acai Smoothies

I count this as a food because I make them pretty thick...  And really we can count a lot of different kinds of smoothies in here (like the tropical mix my husband craves too) but I've chosen to highlight my current "absolute favorite", which originally came from a decision to stop into a Protein Bar location here in Chicago: the banana acai smoothie.  I've managed to replicate the mix at home, instead of having to pay $7 for a smoothie every time I get that craving, and it's become my go-to breakfast.

Sooooooo good!  Sooooo 'spensive!


Yup, I'm including McDonald's on this list.  Y'see, I worked there for over a decade, starting young and progressing into management.  I was practically raised on the stuff, and while I know "it's soooo unhealthy," that doesn't mean it can't be enjoyed in moderation.  I remember when the McGriddle came out, and people thought it was "so weird" and that it wouldn't last - but I thought it was DELICIOUS.  Long story short: I was right, and it's now a staple of the Golden Arches breakfast menu.  I don't indulge nearly as often as I used to, but some days I'll pass a Mickey D's in the morning and decide to treat myself with the gooey, cheesy, syrupy goodness.  I'm getting hungry just thinking about it...

C'mere, gorgeous.

Do I have other favorites?  Probably.  These were the ones that jumped out at me and made me actively hungry, so I figured that's probably good criteria for this list.  I could probably say pirogi or brownies or French toast or any number of other goodies, but... well, I guess I just DID say them!  And now I'm even more hungry.  I'm gonna go eat...

What about you?  When you've got the hunger, what do you grab?  Any life-long, dead-set favorites?

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Race Recap: Hot Chocolate 15k

Choosing to participate in the Hot Chocolate event this year was a difficult decision.  I've run a lot of great races so far, and I'd heard some great things about the Hot Chocolate, but I'd also heard that it's a seething mass of humanity - and that sounded like a bit of a turn-off.  A crowded race is one thing, but 50,000 people crammed onto a single course?  Sounded to me like madness.  Perhaps a great thing to do with some friends, but madness just the same.

Fortunately, my decision was actually made for me: my running bestie Mary has been sidelined for some injury rehabilitation, and she graciously gifted me her entry to the race.  I took this news with mixed emotions, since running with her would have been most of the fun!  But of course, a little rest now prevents a much worse injury later, so I was happy that she is looking out for her health.  Plus, as my network of running friends is growing rapidly, I had the feeling I wouldn't be totally alone come race day.

It's always fun to run into the heart of this beautiful city!

I had to wake up pretty darn early to get there for the 7am start - or so I thought.  It was a very cold morning, so I was glad I had laid out my clothes the day before, including extra layers, so I wasn't in panic mode at some ungodly hour.  Even leaving with what I thought was enough time, I was still rushing (thanks Chicago traffic) to get to the start corral in time.  I rushed through bag check, and hustled straight to my assigned corral, which was advertised to close at 6:45.

And then, I waited.

Not just the 15 minutes to the gun, but for an additional half hour after the first runners had crossed the starting line.  I watched dozens of people just push straight up to the front, many of them slipping into earlier corrals, but somehow I was never able to find those holes in the crowd.  Well, "crowd" is maybe the wrong word.  "Massive throng of people" is the best way to describe this starting chute.  Goodness gracious, it was sheer insanity!  But there were massive video screens showing live footage as well as highlights from Twitter and Instagram - and MY PHOTO was featured on the big board!  It was pretty cool, I totally felt like a celebrity!  Having some friends with me would have helped make the mess seem a little less crazy, but as it was, I amused myself and chatted with other people around me until I finally got to start running!

That's the second half of the first wave of corrals.  I was
in the very last corral.  Yikes.

Boy was I cold.  Had I even bothered to warm up, it would have been completely wasted anyway in the long wait.  I did my best not to get caught up in the race atmosphere, trying to go easy until I warmed up, but I was just too excited to finally be moving.  I nailed my first 5k, all of which took place amid the buildings of downtown Chicago.  And amid the smells of downtown Chicago.  PHEW, there were some moments when I seriously thought I was going to hurl.  But I also got to take in the route's scenery, much of which felt like a trip down memory lane from when I used to actually live down in the city.

Then we passed the end of Grant Park and continued down the less-famous stretches of Michigan Avenue.  The streets were plenty wide to accommodate the mass of runners, but as the surroundings got less interesting, I started to focus more on my body - and it was NOT HAPPY!  I haven't had much time to actually train in the past few weeks, and in fact hadn't run at all since the Thriller trail run two weeks prior, so I knew I'd be off my game.  The day before the Hot Chocolate I tried to run for an hour around the neighborhood, but had to stop about fifteen minutes early because my hips were incredibly sore.  Well, I ran into the same problem during the race, and chose to listen to my body.

Fancy feet and pompoms helped me get through the arduous course!

I took a lot of walking breaks.  At first, I was upset with myself for not pushing, but then I realized I had a LONG way to go still, and it was important to ease up when the pain started.  Taking the opportunity to enjoy course amenities, I got some great footage of one of the several cheerleading groups throughout the race!  They added some excitement and fun to a course that was rapidly growing stale.  After recovering a bit, I was able to run a couple more miles before taking another short walk, then I finished strong with a quick stride across the finish line!  My realistic goal was to finish in two hours (knowing my hip might act up) and my stretch goal was 1:45, so I was VERY pleased with my time of 1:50, which is my 15k PR.  Not just from my first actual 15k race, but also from my extrapolated predictions, taken from my two previous longer races.  So, yay despite the walking!

After the race, I met up with Nancy, who I met at a previous race, and we hung out in the post-race festival for a while.  The temperature kept dropping, especially as the wind picked up, so it wasn't the most enjoyable setting, but we still enjoyed each other's company!  Our friendship is blossoming and I was so happy I had the chance to find her in the post-race craziness.  And it really was crazy - even worse than the pre-race!  Swarms of people trying to keep warm, trying to get their goodies, trying to find their friends...  All of the photo opportunity areas had massive lines, as did vendor booths and the massive merchandise tent.  We chose to wait for the backdrop photo spot, and while we were waiting a course photographer snapped a shot of us with the big screen in the background, which was a cool bonus.

Photo courtesy of the Hot Chocolate organization!

So how does the Hot Chocolate 15k experience break down?

Organization: For the hordes of people this race pulls in, they did a remarkable job of keeping things moving and communicating clearly.  Gear check was a snap, they had TONS of volunteers (here and throughout the event) which kept lines virtually non-existent.  Corrals were well-marked and easy to understand, and the announcers throughout the day were very clear-spoken, which eased a lot of potential confusion.  Aid stations were well-staffed and easy to access, the course was very clearly marked, and despite the massive amount of people moving through it, the finish line area and medal hand-out kept some momentum with only minor clogging.  The post-race area was a bit of a mess, but that was because they labeled areas for runners to reunite with their friends after the race - really a pretty nice idea.  The hot chocolate lines moved quickly and efficiently as well, once you were able to wade through the giant crowd in the runner meet-up area.

Can EVERY race have a Tootsie Roll Aid Station?  Pwease?

The Course: Starting in Grant Park and heading straight into the heart of downtown is a great opening stretch for any course.  It's almost entirely wide roads, though some of those roads go through some tunnels that smell awful!  Once you're back out on the upper streets, though, the scenery is gorgeous, and having the full street closed made a high-entry event much less congested.  After about two miles, though, the race hits Michigan Avenue near Grant Park, and travels south for a few miles.  This got very boring, very quickly.  Thankfully, the return path went down the lakefront - but NOT on the Lakefront Trail, thank goodness!  There's no way this many people would ever have fit on that narrow thing.  Instead, the course stuck to driveways around McCormick Place.  The worst part of the course, though, was going UNDER McCormick: it was almost pitch-black, especially after coming out of the bright morning, and the terrain was gravelly, uneven, and full of hidden potholes.  Dangerous much?  I'm very surprised (and fortunate) that I did not sprain an ankle down there...  Anyway, overall the course was fantastically well-marked, spacious, and despite a lack of interesting scenery, I'm very impressed with this route in this situation.

The Swag: I can't actually speak to the big selling point on the swag - the hoodie.  Mary's only condition for gifting me the entry was that she get to keep the jacket, and from what I could see (and hear) that was a pretty good choice.  I got to keep the medal and any little freebies I could snag, plus she sent me the drawstring bag from the event as well.  The bag was a little on the cheap side, but the hoodies looked lusciously warm and well-fitted, and the medal is a pretty sweet piece of bling!  I was disappointed that the post-race party was so... not full of freebies?  Maybe I am just too spoiled after the #Run10Feed10 a few weeks ago, but I kinda expected to see more sponsors with cool giveaways in the party area, especially considering the cost of the race.

The medal is SHINY.  Oooooh, shiny...

The Bottom Line: I'm glad I had the experience, but I wouldn't pay for this race in the future.  WAY too many people, especially in the start corrals and the post-race party.  It's just too much to take, especially as one of the first truly cold weekends of the year.  Definitely worth experiencing once, just not worth the price for a repeat.

Since about 90% of Chicago runners were likely at this event, let me know YOUR thoughts!  Did you love it?  Hate it?  Find the massive crush of people simply too maddening?  TELL ME!

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Blog Challenge Day 18: My Collections

Oh man, I'm a borderline hoarder, so this post could potentially go on for days...  Instead of talking about some of my weirder collections, I'll go with some of the cooler ones that make for interesting reading and not just awkward shame.


This is a big one!  I probably have several hundred dragon items: figurines, posters, books, pens, shirts, lamps, bowls, incense burners, you name it.  My love of dragons came out of my interest in folklore and mythology, and spun wildly out of control!  I have some really awesome pieces in my collection, but sadly there is not enough space to display even a fraction of the whole spread anywhere in my home.  I'll figure it out sometime!

Just one of MANY.

Star Wars

My collection of Star Wars toys, books, and memorabilia is pretty impressive, considering I cultivated it when I was very young.  I am proud to say my collection is pure, too - completely dedicated to the original trilogy and the original expanded universe, long before those atrocious prequels.  Much like my dragons, there's really no room to display my items (not to mention display is sometimes dangerous for some of my more valuable pieces), so the entire set is packed away neatly and safely in my parents' attic until the day comes when I can reclaim everything.

Nope, not mine.  But close.

Crafting Stuff

I'm not sure this really counts as a collection - more like specified, semi-organized hoarding.  But it is one collection I DO have space to display!  In fact, one of the requirements while we were home-shopping was an extra room to serve as a craft studio.  It's a perpetual mess, but it's my sanctuary!


I have many more "collections" I could share, but that's probably enough for now...

On a different note...  Tomorrow's challenge topic is "a difficult time in my life."

Honestly, I'm going to skip this one.

It's not that I don't have something to share.  Quite to the contrary.  I'm just not sure I'm ready to share some of those details in this forum yet.  I've had a lot of little difficulties (doesn't everyone?) but I had a particular period of my life that definitely takes the cake.  Someday, I will find a way to approach that discussion, but I want to be sure I can do it properly and with care.

So instead, I'll post that long-overdue race recap of last week's Hot Chocolate 15k!  YAY FULFILLING PROMISES!

Monday, November 17, 2014

November Blog Challenge Day 17: Meaning Behind My Blog Name

This is an easy one!  My middle name is Nyx - that's for real, my parents chose it when I was born, and I think learning about my namesake helped drive my education and interests for a long time.  Nyx is a Greek goddess (Nox in Roman mythology) who is typically considered a minor character.  There's not much mention of her throughout mainstream Greek mythology, but Hesiod's Theogony devotes more than an entire page to Nyx.  She was the daughter of Khaos (we all know this one) and Phanes, first king of the universe, and she was the first to inherit the title before it passed down through Ouranos, Kronos, and finally to Zeus.

Nyx means "night", and she was definitely a goddess shrouded in shadow and mystery, which led to a strong cult following back in those old Grecian times.  Her worship was never truly mainstream, but she was widely acknowledged as the mother of a host of spirits that included the Fates and the Hesperides, along with at least a dozen others like Dreams, Envy, Love, Friendship, Fear, and Misery.  She was pretty much all over the board with her children...

I can totally see the resemblance.

Upon learning about the goddess, I started a lifelong pursuit of mythological knowledge, which turned into collegiate and post-collegiate degrees in religion and religious art - and it all started with just a name!

I chose to incorporate the name into my blog because it represents my soul better than any other title could: a complex mix of emotions and facets that come together to make a legendary figure!  Plus, the wordplay of FitNyx vs fitness was just too good to miss!

The "Adventures" part should be pretty self-explanatory: I like to have adventures!  The added advantage to using Adventures with FitNyx?  I haven't branded myself into a corner, and can freely move about in the realm of general fitness or even general life without feeling like I am breaking my brand.  The flexibility and freedom are pleasant comforts when sitting down to write.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Blog Challenge Days 9-18

Okay wow.  That eye surgery thing took a little more out of me than I had expected!  On top of that recovery, I also experienced some major career change news - specifically, I was offered a good job that is about five minutes from home!  With the stress of an almost 2 hour commute each way every day at my current job, it should go without saying that I took this new offer immediately!  So this coming week will be a mess of transition at the old job before I settle into something a little closer to home.  Exciting!

All of these things have, obviously, kept me from my computer.  I know I set out to do this blog challenge thing, and I still intend to follow up with that as best I can - but it'll likely be done in weekly block posts.  I doubt I'll have much time this coming week to write daily, and then Thanksgiving week will be spent in California - where I will be focusing on my vacation and not on a glowing monitor.

But for now, I can catch up a bit on some of the posts!  Read on!

11/9: Best Physical Feature

My most recent photos may not show it, thanks to the lovely patch, but my eyes are by far my best physical feature.  They change colors (cool right off the bat) but usually they are a deep blue, with a bright yellow sunburst right in the middle.  Awesome.

That's really my eye, and a pretty true color for right now,
despite some editing around the eye.

11/10: A Few of My Favorite Things

  • Bright, vibrant colors - especially clothing!
  • Twirly skirts.
  • Music.  Lots of it, and in many different genres.
  • My husband.  Duh, that's why I married him.
  • Dragons.
  • Banana-acai smoothies.
11/11: Outfit of the Day

I spent all day in bed, taking care of my eye after the surgery, so there wasn't really an "outfit" besides pajamas, and I'm not posting any pictures of that here!  In the spirit of the eye patch I wore frequently this week, I'll show y'all my pirate costume, which, oddly enough, doesn't actually include an eye patch...

I just love that giant ridiculous hat...

11/12: Things that Make My Day
  • Coming home to burgers on the (indoor) grill.  My husband makes amazing burgers, and after a long work day, there's nothing better than opening the door to his gorgeous face and the smell of delicious dinner.
  • A calf rub after a long run.
  • Getting everything done with enough time to have some me-time.  Happens less often than I'd like - but we're working on that!
  • A great Zumba class: good music, high energy, big smiles, and lots of sweat!
11/13: If I Won the Lottery

Okay, so it's boring but the first thing I would do would be pay off my student loans and our mortgage.  Practical adult things first, THEN fun.  After we become debt-free (I got a tingle of excitement just thinking about it) I'd start making a serious list of destination races to attempt, with some serious vacationing attached.  I'd probably also build an addition onto my house, a greenhouse-slash-reading-room type of thing, and maybe a gaming room above the garage.

Or I could swim in it...

11/14: An Average Day

Sadly, my average days are pretty boring.  I get up early, take a long two-hour train ride to my hectic office management job (changing soon, yay!), work my butt off for 8-12 hours depending on the day, take the long haul back home, and then get as much relaxing time in with the hubby as I can before I pass out - hopefully early enough that I can get enough rest to repeat the next day.  I can't wait for this new close-to-home job to start, so I my average day can be more Amanda time and less selling-my-soul-to-work time.

11/15: A Photo of My Handwriting

Okay, this is from my craft fair log, a record of the shipping supplies I had purchased in anticipation of staring my Etsy shop a couple years ago.  The shop is still up, but is empty for now.  I may be reviving my account soon, though, once I have a little more time on my hands.

Amazingly mundane, I know.

11/16: Proudest Moment

This is a tough one.  I've had a LOT of proud moments in my life, and there's no way to compare one to the next.  Here's a very short list of the first few that come to mind:
  • Buying my first home with my husband.
  • Finishing my first half-marathon, especially since I ran it with my father.
  • Heading down to my college's athletic center at midnight in November because my soccer team had just learned we'd made it into the NCAA tournament for the first time in history.
A glorious sight on our march to victory!

Okay!  That should get me caught up for now!  Stay tuned, I still owe y'all a race recap and more November Blog Challenge!

UPDATE!  I just learned that my college's current soccer team just won their first round NCAA tournament game yesterday!  That's only the second NCAA win in team history, so we're all SUPER PROUD!  GO LADIES!