Jogging for Judy

Dear friends and family,Team Judy will be hitting the pavement at the University of South Florida campus for the first annual

As many of you know, my mom Judy passed away on April 11, 2012 after a long battle with breast and brain cancer. Although we miss her terribly, we can’t give up the fight against this horrible disease. We are going to show our support for her and all of the others out there facing this journey by participating in the Miles for Moffit race!
Please join us! You can sign up to walk or jog 1 mile, 3.1 miles, or 5 miles.
We’ll be wearing orange (Judy’s favorite color) and showing our Team Judy spirit with posters and cheers.

It’s going to be a great event, with proceeds going to a wonderful cause. Let’s show Judy that we’re always rooting for her and we’re on her team!

Here’s how to sign up.
First click on this link: http://www.milesformoffitt.com/
Then, click on the green button that says “Register Now”
You will be redirected to the Active.com website. There you will see another “Register Now” button. Click it.
You may be prompted to make an Active.com account. If so, go ahead. It’s easy and there is NO spam. Then, click on the race of your choice (see above for options). You’ll also be prompted to choose your team- pull down the drop down menu and choose Team Judy!
All races are $25 and include a tee shirt, race goodies, breakfast snacks and lunch snacks after the race. Remember, the proceeds go toward Moffit!

If you’re having trouble registering for the race or joining our team, please call, text or email me and I’ll be glad to help. 813-317-4496
And to keep track of our team’s progress, or if you know someone who cannot participate, but would like to make a donation, please refer them to our team page here: http://www.active.com/donate/MilesforMoffitt2012/teamjudy

See you on May 12, bright and early!


Be Merry

I didn’t want to write this post today, but I also don’t want to forget the emotions and memories I’ve made since my mom’s passing, so if I don’t get it down on “paper” now, the vividness will fade.

My mom’s service was just what she would have wanted. Yes there were tears, yes there was sadness, but we did celebrate my mother’s life through funny, but touching speeches, kind words and photographs. I know that everyone who knew my mother is affected by her death, but no one is grieving like my brother and I. It’s hard for people to understand who have never lost a mother. And although their kind words are deeply appreciated, nothing can replace the heartache that I’m feeling deep inside my bones.

I know that time will help me cope, but life will never be the same. There are many good things happening in my life that I’d love to have been able to share with my mother: the love I share with Brian, future races and triathlons, work accomplishments, and other great things that I know will make up my future. But now I must come up with a plan on how I’m going to do all of those things without her, and make sure that our new life without mom is just as fulfilling as it was when she was here.

After the services, we came back to my parents house and Ate, Drank, and were definitely Merry.
We filled our bellies with food.
I cracked open a bottle of champagne and some wine.
We took out the fire pit and lit a campfire in her honor.
We sat around it and told stories of Judy’s life, laughing, drinking and sharing, until the wee hours of the night.

At one moment, for around 10 minutes or so, the wind picked up, and began to swirl the fire’s flames in all directions, lapping at each one of us as it danced. At that moment, we knew my mom was there. Making sure her flame touched every single one of us. (Thanks Meghan).

I know this is a given, but I will never, ever forget my mother. Last night as I sat in the back of the chapel, as guests began to taper, leaving only close family members behind, I noticed, for the first time, all of the mother and daughter relationships that were in the room. It suffocates me to know that I’ll never have another mother.

Although I’m grieving, I know that I still have responsibilities here on this planet. I’m still a daughter. I’m still a sister. I’m still a granddaughter, a girlfriend, niece, cousin, and a friend. I’m still a teacher, and even though it’s of the furry kind, I’m a mother too. Just because one of my roles has ended, that doesn’t mean there aren’t others out there who will need me, and I know that we’ll all get through this together.

Thanks to everyone for your kind words, notes, cards, texts, emails, gifts and thoughts.

I miss you mom.

PS- For those of you who were unable to attend the services, this is the note that my Uncle Marty read that I wrote about my mother:

    When I think about my mother, I will not think about watching her take her very last breath. I won’t think about the cancer, I won’t think about the pain. Because those things were a microscopic part of her huge, full and happy life.
    I will think about Halloween parties she threw, when she had the idea to make a hayride out of Abuelo’s trailer.
    I will think about when she sang Last Dance at the fair, and it was blared over the speakers for all visitors to hear, and how Dad, Jason and I slowly crept away from the recording studio.
    I will think about the time we went up to Blairsville and she almost fell down a waterfall because “she wanted to see over the edge”.
    I will think about trips to the beach seeing her standing in her swimsuit cooking breakfast.
    I will think about trips to Disney Halloween and how she insisted that the Disney employees wouldn’t notice us going through the same trick or treat lines 3, 4, or 17 times.
    I will think about camping trips at Tillis Hills where our days and nights were filled with laughs, 45 minute drives to the local Wal-Mart, and gourmet meals. No matter how far removed from civilization we were, mom could always find a Wal-Mart (she was the original GPS).
    I will think about Christmas Eve parties at Abuelo’s and Christmas mornings at our house, where even at 32 years old, I was still pulling gifts out of a 6 foot tall stocking.
    I will think about crabbing and fishing trips where she always seemed to be the one to catch something first.
    I will think about all the birthday pool parties she threw me, and homemade birthday cakes she made.
    I will think about her being pregnant and giving me the only brother I’ll ever have.
    I will think about her love of board games, and how we would stay up until the wee hours of the night playing her favorite game, Scrabble.
    I will think about trips up to the mountains where she insisted on having a bbq on top of the highest mountain in Georgia with temperatures in the teens. She learned that day that mustard has a freezing point.
    I wish my brain was a computer that I just file each and every memory away in for safe keeping. I know some will stay vivid, while others will fade away with time. I never fully understood the pain she felt when her mother passed away, but now I do.
    I can’t wait for the day to come where I’ll find peace in a photo, find comfort in her belongings and be able to laugh at an empty ketchup bottle on a restaurant table.



I lost my mom today. She fought a long and hard battle against breast cancer. It’s only been a few hours, but I already miss her terribly. Please visit me in my dreams, Mom.


Lemon Olive Oil Cake

Happy Easter! What was on your Easter menu today?
Around these parts we kept with an Italian theme. I’m not sure how “spring” or “Easter-y” that sounds, but I wanted to make something that my mom would enjoy, so of course, Baked Ziti popped into my head. It’s definitely one of our go-to party recipes, and is always a crowd pleaser. There’s nothing spectacular to our ziti recipe. I certainly don’t slave over a hot stove preparing sauce made from scratch, nor do I make my own pasta. Really it’s a matter of browning some ground meat or Italian sausage, boiling the pasta, bringing some jarred sauce to a simmer, and combining the meat, sauce and pasta into a large pan, topping it with a combination of shredded mozzarella cheese and Italian flavored breadcrumbs, then baking until all nice and bubbly. I must say I did, however, add ribbons of fresh basil from a little basil plant I picked up at the blueberry farm last weekend. The thing about cooking at home is even though things might not always be from scratch, you can totally fake it and add flavor to pre-made ingredients using fresh herbs and seasonings. With pasta sauce?- Freshly chopping basil is definitely a wow factor.

Simple fixes; always delicious.

As for dessert? Nothing screams spring/summer like lemons. I adore all things lemon, and have been wanting to make a cake like this for a while. The olive oil gives cakes a richer, denser texture, but not in a heavy way. There just seems to be more body and a buttery, fresh flavor that is worth going back for senconds for.

Lemon Olive Oil Cake (inspired from an Epicurious recipe) Ingredients2 lemons
1 cup cake flour
5 eggs, separated
3/4 EVOO
1/2 tsp. sea salt
3/4 cup sugar

Preheat oven to 350 F. Zest both lemons and add to a mixing bowl. Add the flour and whisk together. Set the bowl aside. Juice both lemons (hint: stick your lemons into the microwave for 5-10 seconds which will get the juices flowing and make it easier to juice!) Set the juice aside.
In another bowl, beat the egg yolks with 1/2 cup of sugar on high speed for 3-4 minutes.
Reduce the speed to medium, add the olive oil and lemon juice and beat until smooth (but don’t over beat, so keep your eye on it!).
In a separate bowl beat  (with a hand mixer!) the 4 egg whites and salt until foamy.
While beating gradually add 1/4 cup of sugar. Continue beating until soft peaks are just starting to form (about 3 minutes). Use a large rubber spatula to gently fold the egg white mixture into the yolk and sugar mixture, careful not to over mix. Scoop by scoop at the flour mixture and combine well. Pour the batter into a greased 9in square cake pan. Bake for 35-45 minutes, or until fork test proves done. Cool completely before icing.

1 8-oz package cream cheese, room temperature
1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
zest of 1 lemon
1 tbsp. lemon juice
2-3 drops of yellow food coloring (optional)

Using a mixer, cream the sugar and cream cheese together. Add zest and juice. Mix well. Chill for 10-15 minutes (be careful not to chill for any longer. You want the frosting to firm up a smidge, but not to the point where it won’t spread.)

Unfortunately, because we were in such a rush to get over (and eat) to my parent’s house, I only snapped two pictures: One of the cooking process, and one of the final product.  




My blogger friend Sara from Words to Run By posted this in one of her blog posts tonight:
The 21st of April will mark the one year anniversary of my mother’s unexpected passing. Has it really been that long? Yes? No? Sometimes it feels like it was yesterday, the pain is so fresh, so raw; and yet, other days, I can’t remember something small about her and I feel like it has been decades.

I know exactly how she feels, and she put it into words perfectly.
Lately, my mother is the only thing on my mind. I don’t know when it’s going to happen, but deep in my soul, I know it’s going to be soon.

When you lose someone, and I don’t know why or how this happens, but memories get more and more difficult to recall soon after they pass. It could be a subconscious thing. You don’t want to think about the good times because it hurts too much, so you compress all memories- the good AND the bad- until you’re ready to bring them into your mind again. By then, time has passed, and unfortunately the memories aren’t as vivid and easy to remember, and so yes, a few weeks might feel like a decades.

Although she’s still here with us in person, her mind and body are so far gone that we can’t have those “live like you were dying” moments you see in movies, taking her places and doing all the things she wanted to accomplish and see before her time was up. The best we can do is keep her well fed with her favorite foods, watch TV with her, and make her comfortable and happy. People tell me that I’m lucky to still have her here, but I continue to have mixed emotions about that. Sitting and waiting for the inevitable is torture. It’s a nightmare that I wouldn’t wish upon my worst enemy. It’s a luxury to be able to “say goodbye”, but it’s the most difficult thing I’ve ever had to face. I never, in my wildest dreams, thought I’d have to confront something like this so early in my life. It hurts even more to know that my brother, who is 9 years younger, has had even less time with her.

Every night I before I go to bed I lay there and stare. Sometimes I cry, sometimes I plan. Sometimes my thoughts are so tangled in my head it consumes me like a rip tide. Sometimes my restlessness wakes up the guy and we have pillow talk moments that temporarily make it all better. There are lots of things in my life right now that are good, and make life temporarily better, but  my mother’s terminal illness is something I cannot escape no matter how good my softball game was, how delicious that new recipe I tried came out, or how great a lesson at school went.

Since my mother was diagnosed with breast cancer in March of 2011, I have intrinsically dedicated every training, every run, every race to her. No matter what kind of pain, exhaustion, or frustrations I’m feeling while on the pavement or in the water, I think about the pain and suffering she’s gone through, and how I know she’d give anything to be able to even walk one lap at Al Lopez park. I will forever think this way, until I run my very last race, and take my very last breath.

I don’t want to forget my mother. I don’t want to forget the little things that make her who she is. I want to remember it all so that I can tell my children all about the grandmother they never got to meet. I don’t know how I want to organize all these memories that are floating in my head, but I do know that I need to start- before these memories become temporarily painful. For now, I’m going to just make a list as they pop in my head and save them here on this blog. That way they’re electronically available to me anytime I want to read them, update them, share them or ignore them. It won’t be a paper that I might risk losing, and it will give others an opportunity to comment and add their own memories to my list. I swear I feel like a hoarder right now. I want to hoard time. I want to hoard pictures. I want to hoard anything my mother has ever given me. I want to hoard pieces of paper with her handwriting on them, and last text messages and voice mails she left on my phone. I want to hoard clothes and perfumes and anything else smell like my mother. And most of all, I want to hoard memories.

-Camping and making Mickey waffles in the morning (with the special Golden mix from Disney).
-Signing Last Dance at the fair, and totally embarrassing us.
-All night holiday baking (fudgy oatmeal bars, her fav!) with Mary Kelly
-Disney Halloween camping at Fort Wilderness and golf cart shenanigans
-Tillis Hills fire dancing
-Pool birthday parties in the backyard
-Jlo perfume
-Driving the Jeep Wrangler through way too deep mud
-Hugely pregnant with little brother Jason
-Her obsession with QVC, Little House on the Prairie and trash tv (Maury!)
-Jet skiing at Honeymoon Island
-Turtle beach campground
-The little beach houses at Indian Rocks beach
-She loves Dairy Queen dipped cones
-My over sized 6ft Christmas stocking that she insists on filling up every Christmas morning
-Running with me on the Causeway during the last 1/2 mile of my first triathlon
-The 3 story beach house on Indian Shores
-Cracker barrel breakfast
-Trips to Tennessee renting chalets in Gatlinburg
-Camping and cabin trips to Blairsville, freezing our butts of at Trackrock
-Spending hours picking just the right Christmas tree every year
-Chopping down Christmas trees in Blairsville and Gainesville
-She loved to wear black
-She always made boxed yellow cakes with chocolate frosting for everyone’s birthday
-She is the life of the party, and an awesome party planner
-Cookbooks that have her signature inside them
-Disney trick or treating
-Easter egg hunts at Abuelo and Abuelamoms or Horizon Park
-Key West adventures and her favorite beach, Bahia Honda
-Working with her for a year at Egypt Lake
-Dinners, shots and sangria at CDB’s Southside
-Crabbing and fishing in the boat and offshore at Jupiter FL (catching the man eating bluefish!)
-Camping trips and Geocaching with Joe, Chris and the kids
-Scrabble and Uno for hours at the campground
-Noche Buena and opening a mess of gifts at Abuelo and Abuelamom’s house
-Trip to Savannah and eating at Lady and Sons (hoping to see Paula!)
-Our trip to Memphis where mom almost had to shoot someone coming up to the car.
-Our trip to Texas and the 5 minute Alamo stop.
-Putting up the inflatable turkey at Tillis and the inflatable Buc at the back of the truck during superbowl!
-She always wants a brand new ketchup bottle.


Part of me

I love Katy Perry’s new song Part of Me.

As a divorced woman, completely head over heels in love with someone new and amazing, this song really hits home. Love is the part of me that no one can never, ever take away from me.

As a runner, who finds solace in the repetitiveness and serenity that running brings, this song hits home. Running is the part of me that no one can never, ever take away from me.

As a child of a mother with cancer, who is losing her life a little more each day, this song hits home. Memories are the part of me that no one can never, ever take away from me.

Adidas Part of Me running commercial

Katy Perry’s Part of Me video