Page 1

West Georgia

LiVing March/April 2017

Life . Art . Music . People

Athletics From the Olympic stage to high school fields, west Georgians run, jump, catch and throw

$3.95

Vol. 7/Issue 2


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March - April

Features 27

16

Justin Parks defies a life-threatening diagnosis, truly defining the “Heart of a Champion”

PLUS The human drama of athletic competition - 8 Fitness is as close as the GreenBelt - 13 Local multi-sport athlete is a true “phenom” - 49 Cheerleading IS a sport - 43 City benefitting from gymnastic dollars - 46 4 West Georgia Living March/April 2017

29

Kristi Castlin uses the world’s premiere athletic stages to shine

Blurring the traditional barrier lines, Quidditch opens a new playing field

33

40

2017

Manisha Redus is following a path that was instilled early

D.C. Rogue Runners find a sense of satisfaction in taking to the area roadways

On the Cover: Ansley Barge is a true triple threat on the playing fields of Carrollton High School. See page 49. Photograph by Ricky Stilley


Come By and Visit Us!

HOW DOES YOUR LAWN AND GARDEN GROW? Let’s make it better, WE CAN HELP…….

Once again Spring is upon us, the days are getting longer and on Sunday March 12th be sure to turn your clocks forward as Daylight Savings time begins, Spring Ahead! Easter is considered by many as the start date for successful planting, and Easter is 3 weeks later this year, Sunday April 16th, so waiting for the soil to warm up is always a good idea for best results. Whether you are working in the garden, the yard, or on your lawn you should know the PH level of your soil and the requirements of what you are planting. This one step will have the greatest effect on saving you time, money and improving overall results. Lime, fertilizer, compost, weed control and insect prevention are basics to enhancing garden yields and the appearance of your yard and lawn. We have what you need to make the job easier and the results even better, we can help! When it comes to lawn care, here are 10 basic points to a healthy lawn: 1. Get a soil test or test on your own – the ideal PH for most grasses in Georgia is 6.5. If the PH is low, add lime. This will enhance root growth and good worms. If PH is high, add sulfur. 2. Top dress with compost; most soils are lacking organic matter needed for cycling nutrients, and helping to hold moisture. 3. Over seed liberally – most lawns never get the chance to go to seed due to frequent mowing, lawns get old, tired and thin providing the perfect opportunity for weeds to take over. 4. Water responsibly – over watering can cause root rot, most grasses can survive on less water 4 er at one time, water more frequently, monitor the amount, ideally 1/2 inch each time, at least 1 inch per week. 5. Mow high – depending on your type of grass, set the mower higher than lower. Cutting low 5 causes lots of problems. 6. Aerate – an annual aeration reduces compaction; increases air, water and nutrient infiltration 6 n in to the soil. Aerating, then seeding, then top dressing is the trifecta of having a great lawn. Don’t forget to water – small amounts frequently. 7. Weeds – take care of weeds early before they germinate. Pre-‐emergent herbicides, weed and feeds or organic-‐corn gluten meal are safe around children and pets. 8. Mulch lawn clippings and leaves – mulching has two benefits – adds organic matter back to 8 o the soil and saves time and money by not bagging or hauling away. 9. Seeding – know your soil, know the setting and select what will be best for your region. 9 10. Alternatives – if grass just won’t grow, consider ground cover plants – there are many more 10 options to consider for tough growing areas. We invite you to come by and visit our ever-‐expanding Lawn & Garden Center. Talk with our knowledgeable staff – Cathy, Carol, Nancy, Linda and our “Garden Guru” Carl Brack. They are all eager to help you with your lawn and garden ideas and questions. We carry a wide selection of garden seeds and Burpee garden plants. Our indoor and outdoor assortments continue to grow along with our gardening, lawn care and pond care products from names you know and trust including Miracle-‐Gro, High Yield, Fertilome, Espoma, Scotts and many more. In addition, we are your local Southern States brand dealer carrying a full line of lime, fertilizers, grass seeds, and pest control products and supplies for your home, farm or ranch. Come on by, new plants and products are arriving daily; SOIL TESTING now available!

If we don’t have what you are looking for, tell us, we will do our best to find it for you! The newness of Spring is happening here! We hope to see you soon. Your friends at Southern Home & Ranch…………

Southern Home & Ranch Garden Center 1110 NORTH PARK STREET • CARROLLTON, GEORGIA • 770-832-0114 HOURS: MONDAY-SATURDAY 8AM-7PM • SUNDAY 12PM-5PM VISIT OUR OUR WEBSITE WEBSITE AT: AT: VISIT WWW.SHRCENTER.COM WWW.SHRCENTER.COM

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West Georgia

Li Ving Volume 7 . Issue 2 March/April 2017 Publisher Marvin Enderle publisher@times-georgian.com

Editor Ken Denney ken@times-georgian.com

Advertising Melissa Wilson melissa@times-georgian.com

Photographer Ricky Stilley rstilley@times-georgian.com

Design Richard Swihart rswihart@messenger-inquirer.com

Contributors Kitty Barr, Melanie Boyd, Taylor Boltz, Robert Coval, Corey Cusick, Rob Duvé, Derrick Mahone, Athia Nixon, Josh Sewell, Haisten Willis To advertise in West Georgia Living, call Melissa Wilson at 770-834-6631.

ABOUT THIS ISSUE As the season changes from winter to spring, we’re all starting to feel that urge to get out of the house and move. This issue is all about that urge and the human spirit of athletics. Corey Cusick starts us off with a truly remarkable story: that of Justin Parks, who cautiously defies the medical odds. Despite having a rare disorder that affects his heart rhythm, Parks pursues the career of professional triathlete, and in the process he inspires everyone he meets. Then we have the story of Kristi Castlin of Douglasville, who medalled at the Rio Olympics and continues to compete across the world. Taylor Boltz explores the non-magical version of Quiditch, a real sport that was born in the pages of the Harry Potter books. Arthia Nixon tells us about cheerlead-

ing, an activity that is no less athletic than anything that happens on a playing field. We also look at girls’ gymnastics, where young women are learning confidence and agility at an early age. Haisten Willis tells us about a group from Douglas who take a “rogue” attitude toward running, and we have a photo essay on a true sports “phenom” in our community. But of course, that’s not all. Robert Duvé takes us into the Mardi Gras season with a little Cajun cuisine; we learn about a master potter named Don McWhorter; we discover how a little activity in the garden can get you back in shape; and we discover a new book about a truly unique Southern writer. And of course there’s a lot more inside. Once you have read this issue cover to cover, we hope you will be inspired to put on your running shoes, stretch out the winter kinks, and start moving in the great, wide outside world of west Georgia.

Departments A R T I S T' S C O R N E R 55

Don McWhorter inspired by memories of nature

51

Enjoy Mardi Gras at home with cajun dishes

58

Who knew you could make gardening athletic?

10

Sports movies generate heartfelt emotions

62

Blood Bone and Marrow: a Biography of Harry Crews

FOOD

West Georgia Living is a bi-monthly publication of the Newspapers of West Georgia. Submissions, photography and ideas may be submitted to Ken Denney c/o The Times-Georgian, 901 Hays Mill Rd., Carrollton, GA 30117. Submissions will not be returned unless requested and accompanied with a self-addressed, stamped envelope. West Georgia Living reserves the right to edit any submission.

GARDEN CINEMA

Copyright 2017 by the Times-Georgian

BOOKS 6 West Georgia Living March/April 2017


Tanner’s Advancing Health Education Series Advances You

VAUGHN CLAGETTE, MD

VICE PRESIDENT OF CLINICAL SUPPORT AND DEVELOPMENT TANNER HEALTH SYSTEM

Nothing in healthcare ever stays the same. In fact, there

The Advancing Your Health Education Series events

is a constant barrage of announcements about new

held through February 2017 have included orthopedic

medical discoveries, new advancements in patient care

educational events focused on advanced surgical and

and new technologies or techniques to battle disease and

nonsurgical treatments for joint pain, knee pain, hip

repair repetitive or traumatic injuries to the human body.

pain, shoulder pain and spine pain in Carrollton and Villa Rica; urology educational events with information

Tanner Health System’s physicians and staff keep up with

on urinary incontinence; free prostate screenings; a

any and all advancements that can benefit our patients.

cardiac education event featuring free CPR training;

We offer the latest treatments and have the latest

and an educational women’s heart health event that

technologies — like the da Vinci XI® robotic-assisted

featured biometric screenings, educational displays and

surgery system used for minimally invasive procedures

entertainment in addition to an educational presentation.

that help our patients get better and go home sooner. The Advancing Your Health Education Series speakers Yet in an age of information overload, we know that it’s

have included some of Tanner’s top physicians, who are

difficult for the average person to stay informed and to

all eager to share their knowledge and provide important

understand exactly how such announcements might

health screenings that can help people in our community

apply to their own health problems.

enjoy a healthier and better quality of life: Anthony Colpini, MD; James Cullison, MD; Shazib Khawaja, MD;

That’s why Tanner Health System launched the Advancing

Kevin McLaughlin, MD; John Pearson, MD; Brad Prybis,

Your Health Education Series of one-hour discussions in

MD; Shomari Ruffin, MD; Greg Slappey, MD; and Dia

August of 2016 and is continuing them throughout 2017.

Smiley, DO.

So far, Tanner has advanced the knowledge and health of

There are many more educational opportunities and

hundreds of community residents who have been eager

screenings being planned for 2017. To find and register

to learn more about cardiac, orthopedic and urologic

for an upcoming Advancing Your Health Education

care at Tanner.

Series event, visit www.tanner.org, click the “Classes and Events” tab, then choose “View All Classes & Events.”

To find and register for an upcoming Advancing Your Health Education Series event, visit www.tanner.org, click the “Classes and Events” tab, then choose “View All Classes & Events.”


The human drama of athletic competition CON

SPIRIT

CONFIDENCE

BRAVERY

ABC promised to show us the “human drama of athletic competition,” and that phrase has stuck with me ever since. That’s because athletics, or sports, is the purest form of drama. Today, we think of drama as something that is scripted for our enter-

KEN DENNEY 8 West Georgia Living March/April 2017

LE

But it was Jim McKay’s opening narration that I remember most. It was dramatic, even inspiring, interspersed with clips from the annals of sports. Vinko Bogatai’s horrible 1970 skiing mis-jump still illustrates, in my mind, “the agony of defeat.”

CTER

A CHAR

HEART

In a single, unscripted moment, an athlete can prove something about himself and humanity. Often as not, this does not take place in a stadium before cameras, but on a quiet field of closely-cropped grass, under a bright blue sky. One person, or one team, will rise to the challenge of their rivals and either heroically succeed, or spectacularly fail.

N

IO TAT I S E

H

P

We often measure our lives by our successes and failures, but sports and the spirit of athleticism demands something more of us. There are no true failures in sports, because there is always another opportunity, another chance. Just wait ‘til next year.

ANGST

MOTIVATION

THREAT

CE

N RA

E

EV

S ER

In 1936, Jesse Owens walked into the Olympiastadion in Berlin, the stadium Hitler had built for that year’s Summer Olympics. It was the literal stage that Hitler had planned to showcase his theories of racial supremacy before a global audience. But Owens’ performance showed that idea was a paper-thin lie. In a transcendent moment of athletic performance, Owens not only tested his own athletic abilities, but also the prejudices of his time and era.

STRESS

DRIVE

When I was about ten, fast and graceful, I used to watch a lot of sports. Our GE color console television was the 20-inch Jumbotron of our living room stadium. Every Saturday afternoon, ABC’s Wide World of Sports would come on, spanning the globe to bring me the constant variety of sport. While my brother and dad focused on the eternal springtime hope and inevitable disappointment inflicted by the Atlanta Braves (season after season), I was interested in all the other sports that were not baseball related. ABC’s program showed all that: rodeo, jai-alai, surfing, demolition derby. Anything and everything was the weekly fare of WWOS; a smorgasbord of endlessly fascinating events. Cliff diving? I’d watch that, sure. Badminton? Well, at least it was better than Braves baseball.

A

DRAM

MU S C

Age is a cruel reality, and the impartial leveler of human athletic talent. Those who once ran fleet and sure are now, approaching the heavenly tape measure, slowing down to a walk, if not a crawl. Those physical movements once done with grace and poise are now accompanied by wheezes and grunts.

?

FLICT

STAMINA

Now, I can jog for short distances, usually when crossing a street to avoid oncoming cars. Still, I think I could probably cut loose if I tried; I think I could run as fast as I used to. But I don’t know how far I’d get before some kind of catastrophic failure of joints or internal organs.

together, whether it be the clash of two opposing athletes on the field, or the battle of ideologies on the world stage.

MIND

FEAR

O

nce I could run, really fast, and over a long distance. I was about ten.

FAILU R

E

tainment, to be shown on an Imax screen or on our living room TVs. But there is something more essential about “drama.” The Greeks, who invented everything, found drama at the intersection of comedy and tragedy. In fact, drama is what results from conflict, in which two contrasts are pitched

Drama is the unpredictable, unknowable outcome of a conflict, and athletes leap into the fray of competition with all the bravery and fear and confidence and hesitation common to all people. We are all muscle and bone, mind and spirit – and none of us know our limits until we test them. None of us can know our character until we stand alone with those limits revealed. We are mortal beings, living in immortal time, and we rise or fall, individually or alone, by the grace of our abilities; the full essence of what we are. Of all the people who have lived before us, it is we who stand here and now, ready to test ourselves in a moment. We stand on a mound and glare across at the batter; we scowl at the linebacker on the other team; we look at the distance yet to run, the miles to bike, and the load to lift. We we await, in that transfixed moment, to see what will happen. We wait to see whether we will prevail, or if we will lose, and how we will feel when the moment is over. WGL


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Thomas A. Dorsey Fes�val June 23-24, 2017

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June 9th, July 14th & August 11th

Gold Rush 5K

September 9, 2017

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Reindeer Run 5K December 2, 2017

Christmas on Main Parade December 2, 2017

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CINEMA

The emotional POWER of SPORTS films

The 1919 Chicago White Sox suddenly appear in an Iowa cornfield in “Field of Dreams,” Universal Pictures, 1989.

It’s not the game — IT’S THE STORY A

thletic-themed movies have a spotty track record at the box office, just like any other genre. But I’ve noticed a pattern about those which really connect with audiences. The sports films that stand the test of time – the ones we’re still talking about years, even decades later – essentially treat the sport at the center of the plot as window dressing. Yes, the characters might be athletes, coaches, etc., but the writers, directors and actors go to great lengths to make sure that the sport plotline isn’t the most important element of the narrative. “A League of Their Own” might be about female baseball players, but most people remember the moving relationships Dottie Henson (Geena Davis) had with her sister, Kit (Lori Petty), and her coach, Jimmy Dugan (Tom Hanks), far more than they remember which games their team won or lost.

10 West Georgia Living March/April 2017

“The Blind Side” is technically about football, but viewers love it primarily because of the strong bond established when Leigh Anne (Sandra Bullock) and Sean Tuohy (Tim McGraw) invite young Michael Oher (Quinton Aaron) to live with their family. Of course, the “Rocky” franchise is ostensibly about boxing, but over the course of seven films – roughly 12.5 hours of story – Sylvester Stallone and his collaborators devote far more screen time to Rocky Balboa’s life outside the ring. There’s a reason “Creed” is the best entry in the series since the original, and it’s not the boxing scenes (exciting as they are). It’s because of the profoundly moving paternal relationship Rocky establishes with Adonis Johnson

JOSH SEWELL

(Michael B. Jordan), the illegitimate son of his long-dead best friend and formal rival. The tears flow not because Donnie assumes the moniker of the father he’s never met and holds his own against a formidable opponent, even though those moments are powerful. It’s because in the middle of taking a beating, he refuses to throw in the towel. When Rocky, now taking on the role Mickey (Burgess Meredith) provided for him all those years ago, tells Donnie he’s going to stop the fight, Donnie pleads to keep going: “I gotta prove it,” he insists. “Prove what?” Rocky asks. “I’m not a mistake.” It’s a gut-punch of a moment, followed by a heartfelt response from Rocky. Then, when it’s time for Donnie to continue the


Michael B. Jordan and Sylvester Stallone star in “Creed,” Warner Brothers Pictures, 2015.

fight, we finally hear those chill-inducing opening notes of “Gonna Fly Now.” It’s one of the only times I’ve literally cheered in a movie theater, and it was completely involuntary. I don’t even like boxing. But I love those two characters, and that moment – the result of two hours of phenomenal storytelling from Ryan Coogler – made me care about the sport. Perhaps the best proof of this idea revolves around Kevin Costner, who I consider to be the king of the sports genre. The plots of two of his most iconic films sound unassuming on the surface: Past-his-prime minor league catcher teaches a young, hotshot pitcher

about the game. Farmer hears a voice in his cornfield and interprets it as a sign to build a baseball diamond. But, again, it’s not simply the plots that make “Bull Durham” and “Field of Dreams” special. It’s the way writer-directors Ron Shelton and Phil Alden Robinson use those ideas as a springboard into examining aspects of life

The team meets out on the mound to discuss silverware patterns in “Bull Durham,” Orion Pictures, 1988.

“Then, when it’s time for Donnie to continue the fight, we finally hear those chill-inducing opening notes of “Gonna Fly Now.” It’s one of the only times I’ve literally cheered in a movie theater, and it was completely involuntary.” that practically everyone in the audience can relate to, whether they care about baseball or not. That remarkable final scene in “Field of Dreams” doesn’t reduce grown men into weeping babies simply because it’s two guys playing catch. It’s because of the symbolic weight of everything that moment represents. It’s why I love movies so much – they’re the closest thing to actual magic we have in this world. Costner even brings this charismatic power to his sports movies that didn’t connect as well as audiences. Not many people saw “Draft Day” or “McFarland, USA” in theWest Georgia Living March/April 2017 11


aters, but do yourself a favor and check them out next time they pop up on cable or On Demand. The guy can make owning a pro football team or coaching a high school track team seem like the most thrilling, important professions on the planet, which takes the kind of talent most A-list actors cannot generate. That’s why you don’t hear people quoting memorable lines from “Leatherheads,” “Mr. Baseball” or “The Legend of Bagger Vance,” despite the fact they starred arguably some of the most famous actors of their day – George Clooney, Tom Selleck and the seemingly indestructible duo of Matt Damon and Will Smith respectively. Even the most iconic stars in the world can’t make you pay to watch something you can see on television every weekend for free. They must add something special to the recipe. WGL

Tom Hanks patiently explains to Bitty Schram that crying is not allowed in baseball in “A League of Their Own,” Columbia Pictures, 1992

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Near Sunset Hills Country Club / Melanie Boyd

The Carrollton

GreenBelt

F

or the past few years, folks in Carrollton have been eager for the completion of the GreenBelt project – and now, as spring 2017 arrives, it’s finally here. The GreenBelt is an 18-mile pathway that completely encircles the town, winding its way through city streets and pleasant countryside, over hills, through trees and beside streams. It accommodates bicyclists, walkers and runners; it is for the young and the old; and it’s for both recreation and trans-

KEN DENNEY

portation, providing a healthy commute to work, to schools or to shops. It was not a government project, but something conceived and executed entirely by local hands. And thus, it is possibly the greatest gift that the city has given itself since the 1940s, when local people got together to build what then was known only as Tanner Hospital. The idea for the GreenBelt had been floating around for some time, but it wasn’t until around 2011 that a grant from the Alice Huffard Richards Charitable Fund put the project on a fast track. In that same year,

the Friends of the Carrollton Greenbelt was begun, a non-profit organization that partnered with the city for the planning and construction of the trail. The Friends assembled an implementation team including trail designers, representatives of the Community Foundation of West Georgia, city leaders, a real estate specialist, and many others who saw the benefits of building a trail that would be unlike any other such path elsewhere. The construction of the GreenBelt was dependent on many factors, not the least of which was acquiring easements from propWest Georgia Living March/April 2017 13


Off Hays Mill Road / Ricky Stilley

erty owners. Sometimes this was easy, but sometimes it was hard to convince owners about the virtues of the project. But over time the project has won pretty much universal acclaim across the town and the region. Perhaps part of that success is down to the fact that the planners didn’t wait for completion to open the GreenBelt. Instead, parts of the trail have been opened as they were completed, so that people could get out and enjoy those sections that were open and closest to them. Slowly but surely, the GreenBelt has become integral to community life in Carrollton, unlike any other project in the city’s history. Early users of the GreenBelt have since made it part of their lives, with weekly – or even daily – users getting out for walks or bike rides. Now, the GreenBelt is as much a social institution as it is a recreation destination, with friends gathering together for weekly runs or bike rides, and with groups of friends meeting up with each other either by plan or happenstance. 14 West Georgia Living March/April 2017

The GreenBelt has been built with many needs in mind. It has a few hills and inclines, but none are a great physical challenge to overcome. There are stretches out in the open, where the sun can beat down on a summer day, but there are also long stretches of shade and cool. Those who bike, or run or walk can get near shops and city streets, or they can spend their time out in the country. You can be near motor traffic, or you can hear the lowing of cattle, depending on where you are. Early on, the trail planners enlisted the University of West Georgia into the project, and now the trail runs through the heart of the campus. Not only does this mean that the students have a pleasant place to exercise and briefly clear their heads of academics, it also means that folks from the city and kids from across the state can meet up on the trail. The GreenBelt links parts of the town that were once separate and so crosses the divides of age and cultures. A combination meeting place and exercise yard, it brings

Hobbs Farm / Ricky Stilley

together many different people in a common interest, promoting community and understanding. Not only is the Greenbelt a great attraction for local residents, but it is also proving to be a great tourist draw and an incentive for people who want to move here and be part of Carrollton’s diverse economy. In the future, the GreenBelt will send out spur trails to other parts of the city, so its future is still in development. But already it has become such an institution in town that few people can imagine life without it, and other communities are starting to create their own projects modeled after it. Some 80 years ago, public-minded individuals built a modern hospital in Carrollton and made health services a major segment of the city’s economy. Now, a new public initiative has built the GreenBelt, a project that promises to further transform the city in ways that cannot yet be foreseen. WGL


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HEART of a CHAMPION

Justin Parks has battled a life-

threatening diagnosis head-on and continues to defy the odds as a

16 West Georgia Living March/April 2017

PROFESSIONAL TRIATHLETE


The lifelong dream was dead in his sights. Each lap represented one step closer to the destination. Down the stretch he came; victory literally felt within his grip. As he rounded what proved to be one of the final turns of his amazing prep career — everything went dark.

And in the blink of an eye, it was all gone. Justin Park collapsed violently, and chaos ensued.

T

he multi-sport star had been legging out the sixth of eight laps in the 3,200meter run at a regional track meet outside Greensboro, N.C., when his body completely shut down. Not only were his athletic dreams shattered, his life teetered toward the brink of disaster, all on that fateful day during his junior year of high school.

dreams, fueled by the heartbeat of a champion.

wasn’t restricted from strenuous activities.

One of the more difficult aspects to Park’s condition, first and foremost, became discovering what it actually was that caused him to collapse not only once, but twice, between the end of his junior and the start of his senior years in high school.

But when a similar incident occurred just a few months later, during cross country season, that’s when his family realized something wasn’t right.

Medical personnel and meet officials quickly scrambled to Park’s side, and there were several tense moments as he lay motionless. At that point, he was there in body only; his mind and incredible competitive spirit were nowhere to be found.

That would soon become the least of his worries. Park endured a battery of tests, visiting a specialist twice a month until they could put a finger on the root cause of his blackouts.

Even after temporarily coming to, everything remained a complete fog. “My vision was poor and blurry and all that kind of stuff. I don’t actually remember the event itself,” Park said.

“It was one of those things where a negative was just as good as a positive. They were just trying to narrow down what the issue was. They went from everything from potential tumors to all sorts of stuff.

Fortunately, Park survived an experience that, for many people who share his condition can result in death. Even so, the months — and years — that followed were anything but soothing for a competitor who had dedicated the majority of his life up, until that point, to athletics.

After undergoing a myriad of MRIs and stress tests to determine if the condition was brain-related, Park eventually had a cardiac catheterization performed at Duke University. From there, he was referred to a specialist in Salt Lake City.

Diagnosing the Disorder Park spent his childhood and teenage years as a top-level swimmer and distance runner, but his true passion was soccer. He was all set to suit up for Duke University in the fall, but that goal hit the proverbial crossbar to a life-altering medical condition upon being diagnosed with a heart disorder known as Long QT Syndrome. Essentially, it meant a future in athletics was no longer an option. But for Justin Park — now a 35-year-old professional triathlete who calls Carrollton home — it marked the start of an inspirational journey of defying the odds and following his

“Not only did I have the issue of realizing that it’s a real issue and not a one-time thing, but then I also didn’t qualify for the state championship because I didn’t finish the race,” Park said.

And that’s when Dr. Edward Vincent ultimately made the diagnosis of Long QT Syndrome in the summer prior to Park’s freshman year of college.

Following the original scare, Park chalked it up to being an anomaly. After all, this is a guy who had competed in numerous athletic events since he was a small child. So, initially, he

STORY BY COREY CUSICK PHOTOS BY MELANIE BOYD

A disorder of the heart’s electrical activity, Long QT Syndrome can cause sudden and uncontrollable arrhythmias in response to exercise or stress. The fast, chaotic heartbeats typically trigger a fainting spell or seizure, which can become fatal. “There’s an electrical impulse that causes the heart to beat, and then it has to re-polarize itself to beat again,” Park explained. “For people with Long QT Syndrome, that sort of segment of the heartbeat takes a little longer to happen, which at super-high heart rates West Georgia Living March/April 2017 17


creates a problem. You essentially run into a situation where the heart can’t keep up with the demand of the body, and that’s where you get an event such as I had.” Long QT Syndrome is actually a genetic disorder and Park quickly discovered that not only did he suffer from the condition, but, upon further testing, so did his mother and one of his three sisters. Looking back, Park quickly realized he was lucky to be alive.

It was 2007, and Park was working for a law firm in California when two fellow attorneys actually swayed the former star athlete into a sport he’d never heard of before. On a bet. And on that friendly wager, a triathlete was born. Or born again, that is. “Once I heard it was swim, bike, run and I had grown up swimming and running, I figured I was twothirds of the way there,” Park said.

“I was in decent enough shape that, once I collapsed and stopped, my heart slowed down enough to not cause an issue. But for many people, it’s an event that causes death,” Park said. “And, unfortunately, the condition itself, a lot of people don’t know they have it until it’s too late because it’s not something that affects you on an everyday basis.”

Park never received medical clearance to compete again.

Mending a Broken Heart

To the casual observer, it was a question of which is crazier: giving up a lucrative career as a corporate attorney to become a professional triathlete, or to put your life at risk to become a professional triathlete?

Park is the first to admit that he didn’t handle the diagnosis or aftermath all too well. As an 18-year-old college freshman, what was supposed to be the best time of his life suddenly snowballed into a nightmare when staring down the sobering reality of not being cleared to engage in any form of athletic activity. Park went on to attend Duke and pursue his undergraduate degree, but he couldn’t bring himself to watch many Blue Devil soccer games. It proved too painful to be on the outside looking in. Photo by Luis Fabian “I would assume it’s not the most wonderful news, regardless. But when you have the objectives that stave off depression was bury his head in the I had, I had worked my whole life to play books. Division I soccer. And it’s all there. It’s all ready. And it’s just taken away from you,” And so he did. Park said. “I guess that’s probably what you’d expect. When you’re on this path and you’re Park earned his degree from Duke and headed disciplined enough to pursue it, and it all gets off to law school at UCLA, where he spent the taken away, it makes it very difficult to be like, next three years working to become a corpo‘What’s the point of doing anything else?’ I rate lawyer, specializing in mergers and acquididn’t take it well and I really struggled for sitions. probably the first two, two and a half years of college, trying to settle into a life that wasn’t All the while, that itch was still there. what I thought I was going to be doing.” Following nearly a decade of abstaining from What kept Park motivated was his course athletic activity, Park decided it had been long work. He felt the only thing he could do to enough. 18 West Georgia Living March/April 2017

“But I was an adult, so I could choose to assume the risk - which is essentially what I’m doing to this day,” Park said.

From Corporate Lawyer to Professional Triathlete

For Park, it wasn’t a career path he had ever envisioned. The original plan was to test out the triathlon waters (and terrain) while continuing to work in the legal field. After all, Park had invested three years of his life to law school and another three and a half practicing law in California - so he wasn’t going to flush it all down the tubes for a sport he knew very little about. But given his athletic upbringing and competitive drive, it wasn’t a huge surprise to discover that he was a natural to the triathlon world. “I would win some races here and there, but I didn’t know whether that was that good or not that good. Then I got an invitation to go up to the Olympic Training Center, and that’s kind of when I realized that what I was doing was at least on par with pretty good,” Park said. So after juggling dual careers for a period, Park ultimately made the life-changing decision to go all-in as a professional triathlete.


Photo by Clarke Rodgers With that resolution, he felt it was best to move back to North Carolina, where he could train on native soil and be closer to his family. Of course, the concern for Park’s health and well-being is something his parents and siblings dealt with on their own terms, but he believes the fact that his father was a competitive runner when he was younger helped them all come to peace with his choice to chase his dreams, regardless of the potential pitfalls. “I think he was just shy of the Olympic Trials qualification for the marathon back in the running heyday of the ‘70s and ‘80s. I think he sort of always wondered what his running career would have been if he had pursued it full-time,” Park said. “So both of my parents were always very supportive. Even in the face of the risk, I think they saw enough of how much it tore me up not being able to do what I wanted to do in college. They knew that they probably weren’t going to be able to stop me from doing it, so if they had concerns, they never really voiced them.” With an air of confidence, Park was back on the grind. But he also understood the dangers that came with this decision. He became an expert on Long QT, especially as it relates to endurance sports. “You can just imagine that if you take it like a car, and the heart is actually the engine block. If that’s not operating well, then chances are other things aren’t operating well. And that’s kind of the way it works with me,” Park said. “I’ve got other issues that relate to it. Endo-

crine problems and stuff that are all impacted by the fact that I have this faulty heart. So I made a point to really study up on human physiology and how the body works and how stress in any capacity affects the body so that I could do it in the most intelligent manner possible.” In the end, the reward simply outweighed the risk. “The weird thing about Long QT is it’s also the leading cause of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome. Really, anything that triggers a quick cardiac response in the body can cause the issue (including) being scared. A lot of people with Long QT can’t wake up with an alarm and stuff like that, so I didn’t really want to miss the forest for the trees. Yeah, I was probably creating a risk myself by participating in endurance sports again. But if you’re also at risk watching a scary movie, you can’t live your life in fear the whole time,” Park said.

A ‘Very Special’ Athlete Making a living as a professional triathlete can be just as painstaking as the extreme endeavor itself. There’s not necessarily a set salary as in other professional sports. Landing sponsors is the name of the game, while prize money is the other avenue of boosting the annual income. But with the season typically running from March through November — averaging out

seven-to-eight races a year — you can’t solely rely on prize money. “There’s a lot of things that can come up in a race. A flat tire here or there, or you can just have a bad day. So it’s tough to be just dependent on the prize money at races. It’s really the sponsors and the sponsor backing that allow you to earn a living in the sport,” Park said. Park tries to keep his sponsors local and somewhat minimal, maintaining four-to-six at a time so he can be active with the organizations. One thing working in his favor is his legal background, which allows him to negotiate his own contracts and to not have to deal with an agent. “I just prefer to have a more intimate or involved relationship with all of my sponsors. To me, sponsorship is not just a name on a uniform. I like to be much more involved. I think using an agent sort of separates that a little bit,” Park said. There are different variations of triathlon competitions. For the amateur triathlete who is more of a weekend warrior type, there are courses designed for a 500-yard swim, 10-to15 mile bike ride and 5K run. When it comes to the professional setting, it’s a much more grueling undertaking. Park specializes in the half-Ironman distance, which consists of a 1.2-mile swim, 56-mile bike and 13.1-mile run. And for the “truly crazy” folks there is the full Ironman, doubling the aforementioned distances — 2.4-mile swim, West Georgia Living March/April 2017 19


112-mile bike and marathon run. Park competed in four events during the 2016 season, placing fourth in both the Ironman 70.3 Chattanooga and Ironman 70.3 Raleigh, followed by a sixth-place finish at the Ironman 70.3 Mont-Tremblant in Quebec, Canada, in late June and a ninth-place performance at the Ironman 70.3 Vineman in Windsor, Cal., on July 10. One of the many compelling elements to Park’s journey is that he’s not just a professional triathlete with an interesting background. He’s truly among the elite of the elite, owning several course records and podium finishes throughout his career. When John Harris was first introduced to Park at a Carrollton High School football game a few years ago, he was told they had quite a bit in common. That proved to be true, since they shared a legal background and interest in triathlon. Harris, who has been a partner at the Carrollton-based law firm of Tisinger Vance, P.C. since 1998, is an amateur triathlete and quickly realized that he and Park were on entirely different levels when it came to their involvement in the sport. “Justin, when I first met him, was very understated. I knew that he was a triathlete, but I had no idea he was a professional triathlete. I learned that from other people. This was after I got to know Justin for a little while, because I would run into him at some of my workouts over at the pool and he’d be in there working with the kids,” Harris said. “He originally told me he was a lawyer.” Harris is an age-group athlete in the sport, but he gets to compete on the same courses and under the same conditions as the professionals. He said it doesn’t give the professionals justice until you see them up close and personal. Only then do you begin to understand just how incredibly talented and dedicated an athlete like Park is, especially given all the extra baggage he carries with him to the starting line. “It’s at the end of the day you realize that God just makes some people very special. Just to be able to do what they do in the times they do it compared to the times that us mere mortals, it’s a special gift that they have,” Harris said. “I just respect the heck out of him.” Perhaps even more than his athletic ability, what Harris really admires about Park is his humility. “He is just a humble guy and very likable. He’s willing to spend time with you, give you 20 West Georgia Living March/April 2017

training tips, help you with the mental part of your game. He’s very approachable, and sometimes you don’t get that with professional athletes,” Harris said. “So he’s a guy that just sort of brings out the best in you because he’s willing to share some of his gifts and talents and help you get better at your own game. He’s in a select group of people, and he’s just unique. “If you’ve never seen him run or bike or swim, I think it’s hard to appreciate it. But if you’re ever side-byside or watching him do it, you would realize that he’s got a gift. It’s just special.” Although Harris certainly respects Park and everything he brings to the table on and off the course, he doesn’t necessarily envy the workload it takes to keep his head above water. “I’m sort of a realist and I know all the glitters isn’t gold, in terms of what he goes through in his training,” Harris said. “It seems to have the allure that if you could sort of put down the law books to spend our day training, what fun that would be. But the reality is, he probably spends as much time in front of a computer as I do. Plus professional triathletes, they’re sort of their own HR department, marketing department, they’ve got to get sponsors. They’ve got to go out there and get podium finishes. I know it’s a tough lifestyle that he lives. When I first got into it I thought, ‘Wow. If I could train all day, I’d be a pro.’ But it just doesn’t work that way. The thing that really intrigued me about him being a professional is how does he maintain balance in his life? How does he make himself go through the rigors of the daily training to stay at the top of his game?”

That very question became a recurring theme late in the 2016 portion of Park’s season, when, around mid-August, he started having bouts of atrial fibrillation on a weekly basis. Once again, his future in the sport was put on hold. And, once again, he forged through, although it meant the plan of competing in events through October was cut short. “I had four or five instances in four weeks. So it required a full work-up to see if anything had actually changed with the structure of my


that I do that lowers my pulse rate,” Park said. “Given my heart condition, I’ve sort of created an environment where I’ve made it right to deal with atrial fibrillation and the associated cardiac heartbeat problems.”

“All of it checked out. It’s certainly not normal, by any means, but I’ve sort of created a situation between the type of training that I do that enlarges the heart and also the type of training

A heavy week usually consists of up to 35 hours of training, and a light week is closer to 20, but it’s typically somewhere in between. Five of the seven days are what Park refers to as the “meat and potatoes” days of four-to-six hours of training, while the other two feature a lighter regimen.

“I mean, what I’m doing is certainly not making it better. It was questionable to whether a couple more years of doing this would really create more risk. But they just said that, what I’m doing is causing the issue and it’s up to you whether you want to decide to do it or not. So much like the first time I had dealt with that, I chose to continue on,” Park said. “It ended my racing for the fall because of all the tests that needed to be done, but I’ve been back in the swing of things since the first of November.”

The normal week lends itself to 12-to-15 miles of swimming, 50-to-60 miles of running and 220-to-300 miles of biking.

The 2017 season is ultimately building toward somewhat of a local event given the significant stature of it with the Ironman 70.3 World Championships coming to Chattanooga, Tenn., this fall.

Photo by Clarke Rodgers

After meeting with Dr. Chris Arant, a cardiologist with Tanner Health System, Park was referred to a specialist at Emory University Hospital in Atlanta for a series of stress tests.

When it comes to training, there are no days off. Park honestly can’t remember the last day he’s taken completely off. He literally trains seven days a week, 12 months a year.

Park’s medical advisers left his future up to him, and he’s stayed true to the course.

Park’s 2017 competitive calendar isn’t set in stone just yet, but he plans to compete in a half-Ironman in Puerto Ricow and the North American Regional Championships in May in St. George, Utah.

heart, whether my heart condition had caused some sort of problem with it,” Park said.

No Days Off

“In previous years it’s been in Austria and Australia and those kinds of places. So to have it so close, I’m pretty much gearing my whole season around that one race on September 9th,” Park said.

“It’s gotten to the point where you’re so used to moving that a day off is not as positive as you’d think. It sort of clogs the engine a little bit. Whereas just taking a little bit off with easy swimming, easy running, kind of keeps you going,” Park said. Nutrition is another key element to a triathlete’s way of life. And while consuming 8,500 calories a day may sound fun now and again, it becomes another brutal part of the profession. “You feel very uncomfortably full a lot of the time. Training itself is useless if you’re not taking care of yourself outside of training. I know a lot of people don’t look at exercise this way, but exercise is actually a negative. It tears the body down. It’s only the response the body makes at rest, which is to build itself stronger, that you actually increase performance,” Park said. “So all the elements outside — the nutritional, sleep, other recovery modalities like massage — are super-critical.” Simply put, there are no days off for a professional triathlete. “I haven’t had a day off in who knows how long,” Park said. “I’ll definitely take easier days where I’m only swimming like a half-hour and that’s my only workout of the day or I run for a half-hour. But days off are virtually nonexistent.”

Married to a Professional Triathlete When Heather Park first met her future husband in 2007 at a Christmas party, she wasn’t quite sure what to think of dating a triathlete, let alone a “professional” triathlete. “I guess when we met he was sort of in the very early stages of doing it professionally. He was kind of phasing out of his law career. At that point, I had never heard of anyone being West Georgia Living March/April 2017 21


a professional triathlete. I honestly still really haven’t outside of him,” Heather said. “But it was definitely intriguing doing something athletic as a job, especially with his story of coming from and leaving a law career. It definitely made him an interesting dating prospect.”

up being a whole lot of fun.”

As their relationship blossomed and eventually led to the couple tying the knot, Heather became Justin’s No. 1 fan and supporter.

Justin has been able to compete all around the world and enjoy some beautiful backdrops for a race. One of the most memorable courses was ‘Escape from Alcatraz’ in 2010 when he swam across San Francisco Bay with the iconic prison looming over him. He’s also soaked up the sights in the Pacific Northwest and Canada.

Despite a career in the medical profession as a vascular surgeon, it’s never really bothered Heather that her husband makes a living doing something that put his health in jeopardy. It’s all she’s ever known him to do, and she is perfectly fine with his career choice.

“It’s just gorgeous. Pristine water, rolling terrain and the heavily wooded area. It’s great,” Justin said.

“I guess that’s something that I have sort of always taken for granted. Certainly, the heart condition on paper puts him at more risk to do what he does. Even now from a wife’s standpoint, it’s not something that causes me to lose very much sleep,” Heather said. “I mean, he seems to have a pretty good handle on what he’s doing and his level of risk. From that standpoint, it’s not something that I would ever contemplate not wanting him to do.”

One of the other courses that left a lasting impression was Hamburg, Germany, where roughly 400,000 spectators were on hand to cheer on the participants.

Justin noted that his wife has served as a major source of encouragement and support when he’s not feeling 100 percent or struggling with certain aspects of his training or health from time to time. “She is on board. We met in 2007, so she didn’t have to see any of the real bad incidents or anything like that. I think she probably feels a little bit of concern, but I think she knows that I’ve done what I can the best way possible to control the outcome,” Justin said. “She’s also super-supportive. Even when the issue causes some other health problems that I’ve battled over the past three years or so, I’ve had some big problems health-wise and I’ve often wondered whether it’s still worth the pursuit. But she’s always been the biggest supporter and the one that even if I’m not believing in myself, she’s there believing in me. So it seems to work out.” Attending a triathlon competition was unlike anything Heather had ever seen, and she thoroughly enjoys getting to travel with her husband when their schedules permit to take part in the festive atmosphere. “For most of these races, there is an amateur field of thousands and thousands of people. So it’s a huge production,” Heather said. “The professionals start the race ahead of everybody else. So they have a great crowd of spectators to spot the amateurs who know all them and are big fans of the pros, especially doing it themselves. So the atmosphere of the race is sort of different everywhere you go, but it ends 22 West Georgia Living March/April 2017

to enjoy, which is usually the final race of the season. “If we’re going some place good, and especially if he’s got a little break in training afterward, we try to spend a couple of days. If he’s traveling by himself, he sort of regards it as going to work,” Heather said. “You know, he goes to work, he comes home. When we have a chance to travel together and both have a little time after the race, it’s nice to be able to relax in a

“They were lining the course and it was so loud that if you were running next to somebody and they tried to say something to you, you couldn’t hear them. That was impressive just for the sake of how passionate they were,” Justin said. Justin has competed in at least a dozen different countries and all across the United States, but he said you’d be surprised by how little he gets to take in while he’s there. “You’re kind of in and then you’re in a hotel room resting up. You do the race and then you want to get back and start training as soon as possible,” Justin said. “So I don’t really get to see as much as I want to. My last race of the season I try to put in a unique location where I can spend several days afterward and see it. But yeah, fly into Europe, race in France and how little I see. Just because when all is said and done, it is a job. You’ve just got to get back and get back to work.” Heather tries to make sure she accompanies her husband on the few extended trips he gets

nice spot.” Where the Parks spend most of their time is Carrollton, a place they’ve called home since August of 2012 when Heather was hired by Tanner Medical Centero of Carrollton. “We love it. I’m very happy in my practice and Justin is really happy with the facilities and his ability to train here. In spite of being hit by a car last year, he raves about the roads for biking and all that stuff,” Heather said.

Giving Back to the Community When Park isn’t competing or training, he


makes a point to give back to the community. Park has volunteered with the Carrollton High School cross country and track and field programs, as well as the Carrollton Bluefin swim team for the past three years. He lends his expertise to the distance runners when it comes to cross country and track, and serves as the strength and conditioning coach for the Bluefins.

little bit more than just working during the practice window. It’s taking care of your body and making sure that you’re primed and ready to go.” Likewise, Bluefin head coach John Pepper said the results speak for themselves when evaluating Park’s influence on the swim program. Whether it’s teaching proper workout techniques, or different forms of training, there’s a visible difference from where the program was three years ago to where it is today. “He’s helping the team out in ways that I couldn’t or any other coach couldn’t by doing the dryland, kettlebells and physical labor that they have to do to train their bodies,” Pepper said. “As they’ve gotten older, you can see the day-to-day work that they do is really starting to pay off and they’re starting to get those cuts. Body cuts. Six packs and all. Of course, now they’re like, ‘Oh, yeah.’”

In each endeavor, Park’s unique ability to relate and teach beyond the sport itself is a testament to his knowledge and understanding of how to properly train athletes of all ages and skill levels, according to CHS head cross country coach Eric Simmons. “The kids respect him a great deal because he’s competed at such a high level. So he brought an instant feeling of credibility. It was just amazing to watch how quickly the kids took to him. He really stresses a lot of the maintenance things such as stretching, adequate rehydration. Just different drills and exercises in addition to the knowledge that he has about the sport. He really has helped the kids to understand that it’s a

Simmons recalled the manner in which Park addressed the track and field team prior to the 2015 spring season after the Trojans fell one point shy of a state title the previous year. Rather than beating themselves up about how that one point was lost or gained during the three-day state championship weekend, Park wanted the guys to reflect on that state title point — or even points — being earned well before that. “He said, really, that one point comes in January, in February, in March. Way before the state meet is even contested. So he’s kind of reinforced and brought about that long-term thinking where he’s having the kids think longterm,” Simmons said. “To go ahead and figure out your goals. What is it that you want to accomplish? What is it that you want to do? Not only the big goals,

but the little goals along the way that will help show the progress that you’re wanting to make as you get to that goal. A lot of kids are in the here and now and a lot of kids just want to be Division I athletes or all-area and all-region performers, but they only want to be that between the practice window of 3-5 or whatever you want to call it. He is preaching that it’s a lifestyle. If you want to accomplish these things, you need to live them and breathe them. It needs to be an on-going process. At nighttime, you need to be whatever you need to be to make that happen. During the school day, you need to be whatever you need to be to make that happen. It’s not just during the practice window. The kids have been really receptive to that methodology.” As far as Park’s personal journey, it’s not something he really delves too deep into with the younger athletes. Some of them know his background and Simmons has discussed it with him from time to time, but when he’s training, it’s all about the kids. That being said, it serves as an inspirational backdrop to Park’s powerful message and mentality. “It’s a tremendous story that anybody who ever has a setback or ever has anything that they feel like they can’t achieve the goals that they would like to … that if you put in the work and investigate and do the things that you need to do, then you can still achieve those goals,” Simmons said. “He’s been a tremendous testament to that way of thinking that, ‘Hey, if you really want to do something bad enough, it’s not over because something says it’s over. You really can make it happen if you choose to.’”

Wellness in the Workplace Another passion Park has developed through the years revolves around wellness in the workplace. In fact, when he retires from the triathlon circuit, he plans on making it the next path of his career. After returning from California and beginning his training in North Carolina, Park helped found The Carolina Clinic at UNC, an executive wellness program and division of UNC Hospitals. Park has received various certifications for his healthy lifestyle initiatives and consultant work while living in Chapel Hill. What originally began as a way to keep his own health in order, Park soon realized, could be something that could help others, as well. “It was really for my own good until someone West Georgia Living March/April 2017 23


don’t necessarily see it as an employee retention tool. “Whereas if you have a program that’s very well done that has a lot of satisfaction with their employees, then that actually drives people to stay with the organization and also is an attractive piece for a new person to come in,” Park said. Since most of Park’s consulting work requires travel, he sets it up in blocks and keeps his client list relatively small for the time being. Along with the corporate consulting, Park also reaches out through speaking engagements that focus on well-being in your personal and professional life. “As I transition out of triathlon, which is probably going to be in four or five years, this will become a much more significant portion of what I do,” Park said.

Light at the End of the Tunnel Due to all of Park’s health-related setbacks, he often feels like he’s already behind the pack when he steps to the starting line. But it’s the career path he chose, and he accepts it for what it is. His final race of the 2016 season in California served as a prime example of what he’s up against when his heart problem leads to endocrine issues and lower hormone levels, onsetting heavy stages of fatigue. “It was a really bad day and there’s no rhyme or reason to why. It just feels rough. You feel like you wake up with the flu, but you don’t have the flu,” Park said.

Photo by Luis Fabian at University of North Carolina Hospital at Chapel Hill asked me to help. They thought I was sort of uniquely positioned as a professional athlete who had a career in law to develop their executive wellness program,” Park said. The Clinic hosted executive teams and put them through different degrees of medical testing that Park referred to as the “Healthy Lifestyles Program,” which was essentially preventative care. The idea being that a corporation is only as healthy as the executives who run it. “So everything from nutrition to sleep to managing stress. People really underestimate the impact of daily stressors on their lives. And so I consulted with them and it sort of snowballed to some of those companies wanted me to come in and speak to their employee base,” Park said. 24 West Georgia Living March/April 2017

When Park’s wife accepted her job at Tanner, he left the Clinic and turned to consultant work, where he helps organizations either build a new employee wellness program or refine and improve an existing one. “A lot of companies nowadays are adopting employee wellness programs for health insurance savings, but it depends on employee satisfaction,” Park said. “With a lot of those programs, it is not always high. I think it’s because you’re trying to put an entire program on a group of employees whose lifestyles and occupations are very different.” Park believes there’s a missing element with certain wellness programs that companies view as health insurance savings, but they

When you factor in the trials and tribulations of Park’s health to everything he’s accomplished, it’s quite mind-boggling to fully encapsulate it all. “So many of us participate in that kind of lifestyle because it is such a healthy lifestyle. And here he is trying to overcome health-related issues to participate in that lifestyle. It’s a little bit ironic,” attorney Harris said. The fact that Park has reached this peak of the profession is an incredible feat in itself, health issues or not. But given his age and everything he has to overcome just to get to the starting line, he realizes the light at the end of the tunnel is drawing near. Park is hopeful of pumping out four more years of prime performance and potentially a few more years beyond that before retiring.


All of that, of course, depends on how his health holds up between now and then before transitioning into the world of workplace wellness and spreading his inspirational message of never giving up on your dream. Park lives and competes by the creed, ‘Change the game,” and it’s a mantra he intends to keep using in hopes of motivating others. “It’s not telling people that they should quit their jobs and go pursue triathlon. It’s more about doing something to better yourself each day. Not accepting the status quo,” Park said. “Complacency is a bad thing, in my opinion. Complacency is different from being content. You can be content, but not be complacent. You can always try to improve yourself in some way, shape or form.” A career in endurance sports forced Park to challenge himself to improve every day. As it turns out, that manner of thinking isn’t just limited to sport. “It’s just a different dynamic. I think people get very comfortable in the positions that

they’re in and the ‘Change the game’ concept is more like figure out how to make yourself more indispensable and just find something each day or each week that you can definitively say, ‘I’ve bettered myself,’” Park said. In both life and sport, Park has been knocked to the ground. He’s felt the pain and frustration of being down and out. But the legacy of his life isn’t about how he went down. It’s about how he never feared getting back up. “I don’t hide behind my issues. It’s unfortunate they were given to me, but it is what it is. So you can’t really sit around and worry about it. You have to develop strategies to maximize your potential with that,” Park said. “It’s what I’m trying to do day-in and dayout. It’s kind of what I hope to inspire people to do in their own professions, hobbies, family life. Find a way to better your life a little bit each and every day.” WGL

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Kristi Castlin shines in the Olympic spotlight D

raped in the flag of the United States, Kristi Castlin took a victory lap around the track at Olympic Stadium in Rio de Janeiro.

“It was a feeling of just pure exhilaration when I looked up at the screen and saw the final results. It wasn’t so much about me winning a bronze, but just completing the sweep.(Still,) we knew that the possibility of us sweeping would be kind of a big deal, but we didn’t realize it was the first time in women’s track history that it had been done.”

It was moments after the former Douglasville resident had made Olympic history with her two other hurdling teammates at the 2016 Rio Games.

It had been a long road to an Olympic medal for Castlin, a former state champion at Chapel Hill High School in Douglasville. After enjoying success on the college level at Virginia Tech, the former All-American turned pro.

The trio of Brianna Rollins, Nia Ali and Castlin had a sweep in the 100-meter hurdles for Team USA, becoming the first American teammates - in any women’s event in the history of Olympic track and field - to take all three medals. While Rollins and Ali knew they would take a spot on the victory podium, Castlin had to wait 18 seconds before her place was confirmed; the time that it took the judges to rule whether she, or Britain’s Cindy Ofili, had crossed the line first in their photo finish. Once the scoreboard flashed Castlin had indeed edge out Ofili, the celebration began and the three women embraced. “This is my gold,” Castlin said about her

Speaking at a homecoming event in downtown Douglasville / Derrick Mahone. bronze-medal finish at the Olympic Games. “I’m so excited to share this with everyone. I’m so happy. It was a long destiny but we made it. I felt that I had the support from the whole country. This is not the end but the beginning.”

DERRICK MAHONE

During her quest for Olympic glory, Castlin used her rising recognition in athletics to speak out about gun violence. She dedicated her three Olympic trial races to the victims of gun violence. It is a cause that is dear to her heart, because she has had an up-close view of tragedy. “I’ve been around a lot of gun violence in my life,” Castlin said. “Not just Americans, but all over the world, we’re always touched by gun violence, always touched by tragedy. It feels good to be an example, not just for Americans but families all over the world.” West Georgia Living March/April 2017 27


But as a youth, it struck close to home.

countries and, as of January 2017, ranks among the Top 10 in the world for 100meter hurdles, a ranking she has held for three years straight.

Kristi Castlin shortly after the medal ceremony at the 2016 Rio Olympics. / Special to the Douglas County Sentinel.

Castlin’s father was killed in December 2000, when she was 12, by someone who broke into the hotel he managed and demanded money.

Before the 2016 Games, however, making the U.S. Olympic team was the only accomplishment lacking on her track and field resume. During the trials, she twice failed to make the team - but all that changed when she celebrated her 28th birthday at the Olympic trials in Oregon.

“When you lose a parent, it’s not a pain or a grief that just goes away. As a young person, as you continue to grow and flourish, there are so many parts of your life that you want your family to see and be a part of. I just want other young people (who have experienced the loss of a parent) to know that they are not alone, and if I can make it and overcome, then you can definitely do the same thing.” She also attended Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University - the location of one of the worst mass shootings in the nation’s history. In April 2007, a gunman shot and killed 32 people and wounded 17 others on campus. In October 2014, Castlin was picked by the U.S. Embassy of Guyana to be an Ambassador

of Sport to help inspire young athletes. She has since continued to work with children in the metro area.

She started the trials with a personal-best time of 12.68 to win her heat and advance to the semi-finals. She would run a 12.77 in a steady downpour in the semi-finals. Two hours later, with a uniform change, Castlin went a personal-best 12.5 seconds to finish runner-up to clinch a spot on the U.S. Olympic team.

After her All-American career at Virginia Tech, Castlin became one of the top hurdlers in the world. She has competed in over 40 different

She is still competing across the world and she wants a shot for the 2020 Games in Tokyo. WGL

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QUIDDITCH Isabella Long/U.S. Quidditch

I

t’s 1997 at Hogwarts School for Witchcraft and Wizardry, and

Harry Potter rides a flying broomstick over what looks like a football field, dodging other broomstick riders and flying balls called bludgers, trying to catch the Golden Snitch and win the game.

For Muggles

It’s now 2017 in the human – or muggle – world. Quidditch tournaments are conducted throughout both the U.S. and the globe, typically through the university system. But how did this become a real life sport? To answer, one must go back to 2005 and Middlebury College in Vermont, where Xander Manshel and Alex Benepe were fellow students. Their idea of something fun became a supremely intense sport. According to the U.S. Quidditch website, the first game of live quidditch was played

TAYLOR BOLTZ

on Battell Beach at Middlebury College, where people showed up in makeshift capes. Apparently one person showed up with a lamp instead of a broomstick. But throughout the year, the idea grew; eventually Vassar College joined Middlebury with a collegiate their own collegiate team. In 2007, Middlebury and Vassar played the first World Cup; the next year, there were 12 teams playing in the second championship, including McGill University, of Montreal, making the 2008 World Cup the first truly international event. The popularity of live quidditch continued to grow, and by the spring of of 2010, U.S. Quidditch became a 501(c)3 nonprofit,with its own board of West Georgia Living March/April 2017 29


Muggle quidditch is labeled a contact sport for a very serious reason, but organizers have worked to make the game safe and open to all genders. directors. Now, U.S. Quidditch is almost 12 years old, with teams throughout the United States and abroad.

The game Like fictional quidditch, the real-life version utilizes broomsticks with four balls in play. There’s one quaffle, two bludgers, and instead of a “Golden Snitch,” there is only a snitch, sometimes called a snitch runner. U.S. Quidditch is a mixed gender sport, similar to dodgeball, rugby, and tag. In fact, it recognizes all gender identities, including those outside the binary. There are seven players is this seemingly chaotic game, who play with brooms held between their legs throughout an entire match. They have different positions, coded by the headbands they wear: Yellow: The seeker. Each team has one person designated as the seeker. They chase the snitch-runner to to score and end the game, and to do that the seekers must pull a detachable tail the snitch-runner wears on their shorts. Catching a snitch is worth 30 points. White: Chasers. There are three of them per side, and their main goal is to score by using a special kind of ball known as a quaffle. Scoring consists of throwing or kicking a quaffle through hoops, worth 10 points each. Black: Beaters. Two players on each team who focus on using bludger balls to disrupt 30 West Georgia Living March/April 2017

Courtesy of U.S. Quidditch other players. Often violent, this is one of the main areas where injury can be sustained. Green: The Keeper. Often considered the goalie, the keeper guards the hoops from the opposing team’s chasers. They can also score, just like a chaser. In the books, bludgers knock players off their brooms and therefore out of play. In muggle quidditch, players who are hit with a bludger must drop whatever ball they hold, return to the side of the field, and touch a goalpost before entering play again. It is imperative that the beaters use these balls to check the players, keeping the game moving and the seeker from gaining the Snitch. We now move on to the equipment of the game.

or tossed as need be by the players in charge of them. There is only one quaffle at play, and it must be kicked or thrown into the goals, or hoops. Keepers and chasers are the only ones to interact with the ball, as chasers throw and keepers try to block them from the goal. Quaffles also are good blockers for the incoming bludgers, which are meant to re-start play. The snitch isn’t a ball at all.  It’s a human being dressed in yellow who, as noted earlier, wears a tail-like flag Velcroed to their shorts, just as one would see in flag football. The most valuable and unpredictable part of the game, the snitch is “released” at the 18th minute of the game play, and must avoid being captured. The game is over when their flag is pulled.

Brackium Emendo

The balls used in the muggle version of quidditch look pretty much like the balls used in other sports, except that the balls representing the different types of balls used on the quidditch pitch.

In the “Harry Potter” books, bludgers knock players off their brooms, and beaters check other players in flight. It is, as Rowling describes it, a very violent sport.

In the “Harry Potter” books, each of the different types of balls are charmed so that they can fly on their own. Since that’s not possible in the muggle world, the balls known as quaffles and bludgers are carried

Muggle quidditch is labeled a contact sport for a very serious reason. In the 2010 World Cup, six players went to the hospital for various injuries. But the sport has brought together many types of people, fans of all


Michael E. Mason Photography/U.S. Quidditch types of sports, and U.S. Quidditch has taken some very aggressive steps to make the game as safe as possible. Since the 2010 incident, the sport has required all players to wear mouthguards and has instituted a rigorous concussion evaluation policy. The International Quidditch Association, the governing body for the game, drafted a referee guidebook. Since that time, U.S. Quidditch has begun its own referee training program with several hundred officials, overseen by USQ’s Membership Director. All this is designed to make the game safer.

This year’s Quidditch Cup will be held April 8-9 in Kissimmee, Fla., and there is always a need for volunteers. According to the U.S. Quidditch cup website, the deadline to sign up is Sunday, March 26.

The rules now forbid players from tackling an opponent who cannot see them. Players also cannot lift an opposing player off the ground or tackle a player who is in “midair.”

gender-neutral sports, as most divide along gender lines. This lack of division makes Quidditch one of the most progressive sports today.

One of the other rules is based on a gender maximum limit, which means that no more than four people of the same identified gender, on the same team, can be on the field at one time – a number that increases to five when the seekers enter the game.

For those interested in joining a team, there are no official US Quidditch recognized teams in Georgia. But you could try the U.S. Quidditch website, or the USQ South Region Facebook group.

That being said, this sport is seen as a haven for transgender people who desire to play competitive sports. There are few mixed or

This year’s Quidditch Cup will be held April 8-9 in Kissimmee, Fla., and there is always a need for volunteers. According to the U.S. Quidditch cup website, the deadline to sign up is Sunday, March 26. WGL

West Georgia Living March/April 2017 31


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Manisha Redus nets a career coaching women’s basketball W

hether it was her brother or cousins getting competitive with each other, or stepping onto the basketball court as a seven-yearold at the rec center - 0r sitting in a baseball stadium cheering her dad - Manisha Redus knew her life would always be connected to sports.

Now an assistant coach of the University of West Georgia’s women’s basketball team, Redus is proud to see changes in sport that allow young girls to fulfill dreams of going pro. Many of her colleagues prove daily that a woman can balance a career in sports with family duties. When talking about her own family, she beams with pride while discussing her father Gary Redus, whose pro baseball career took him to the Cincinnati Reds (1982–1985), Philadelphia Phillies (1986), Chicago White Sox (1987–1988), Pittsburgh Pirates (1988–1992) and Texas Rangers (1993–1994). He set an all-time professional league record, which still stands – and in 1987, he finished third in stolen bases in the American League with 52 for the White Sox. “I’ve been around sports my whole life,” Redus said.  “My dad played in the majors for 12 years, so I grew up going to his baseball games and just being around the game that way. I’ve always been a sports fan. “I was born on my dad’s birthday, so I guess I had no other choice but to be involved with sports. So, watching him play as I was growing up, and then watching him coach collegiately and on the major league level, got me interested in softball as a kid, and then also basketball. I had lots of cousins who were really good athletes and my brother was an athlete too, so there was always someone

ARTHIA NIXON

Manisha Redus watches her Wolves from the sidelines.

“I’ve been around sports my whole life. My dad played in the majors for 12 years, so I grew up going to his baseball games and just being around the game that way. I’ve always been a sports fan.” — Manisha Redus

Assistant coach for University of West Georgia women’s basketball team West Georgia Living March/April 2017 33


to go watch play a sport.”

at Montevallo University in Alabama.

One thing Redus didn’t see were women playing professionally in the sports she enjoyed. Some of them competed at the Olympics and other games, but for the most part, there wasn’t a place for a woman in basketball after college.

The Women’s National Basketball Association was founded in 1996; before that, American women who wanted to play professionally considered playing overseas. Redus has coached some players who made that decision, and she sees the potential in some of the women at UWG to make professional teams here and abroad.

Redus is a 2005 graduate of the University of Alabama, where she earned a bachelor’s degree in marketing while playing four seasons for the Crimson Tide (2000-04). She started each game during her junior and senior years. She pursued a marketing career for a while after college, but was lured back to basketball when she went to her Alabama hometown. There, a referee whom she had remembered from childhood invited her to volunteer with their summer athletic program. When a high school basketball coach then asked her to volunteer with their team, she committed to go back into the game as a fulltime coach. Before winding up at UWG, she spent two seasons on the staff

34 West Georgia Living March/April 2017

“I think the opportunities to continue playing beyond college are definitely there now,” Redus says. “Even people that I considered role models, I got a chance to see them play professionally. Years ago, you’d think after college ‘that’s it.’ Now there are tons of professional leagues for female sports now. So the opportunities, for sure, are there. The process may be a bit slower, but the opportunities are still there, so it is exciting to see.” And for those few who still say women cannot have both a career in sports and a vibrant family life, Redus knows differently.

“I see it firsthand that female coaches are able to balance it and have families,” she said. “They have their babysitters travel with them to take care of the kids while they work, and they are able to have it all. Women’s basketball is such a family atmosphere anyway, so they have them all be a part of it.” Redus knows she is a part of cultivating the next generation of potential professional female basketball athletes, and she doesn’t take it lightly. She says that’s part of the reason she makes it a personal mission to be the best she can be, and open enough to her players so as to bring out the best in them. “I see it as a blessing,” she said. “But because I owe the game of basketball, paying it forward is the least I could do. I’ve come in contact with so many players that I’ve coached over the past six or seven years. Lifelong relationships are formed. Those girls are in my life for the rest of my life, so as I coach I know it’s more than just a game. It truly is an extended family.” WGL


770


A Sports Portfoli

Carrollton tennis player Alli Hodges makes a return durin

Sports photography is one of the hallmarks of photojournalism. Photographers who excel at this craft must continually focus on the action in front of them, and be ready at any time to capture a moment of action. Often as not, they never know whether they will be successful, but when they are, the result can be magical. Here, our photographer Ricky Stilley shows some of the magical shots he has taken during his career.

PHOTOS BY RICKY STILLEY 36 West Georgia Living March/April 2017


io

ng a match in April, 2015.

Austin Davis dismounts after roping his calf during his ride at the Incahoots Rodeo at the VFW Fairgrounds near Carrollton in June 2015. This photo earned Stilley a first place award, Feature, in the Georgia Press Association Better Newspaper Contest for 2015. West Georgia Living March/April 2017 37


Clockwise from above: Carrollton’s Eli Payne, left, battles to the finish line with Poncherella Leonard of Bainbridge at the end of the 800-meter run in a track meet in May, 2015 at Carrollton High School. Carrollton center fielder Taylor Powell is overcome with emotion as she is embraced by Lady Trojan coach Lisa Phillips after hitting a walk-off grand slam in September, 2011. West Georgia’s Marcus Sayles literally took the ball off the foot of Clark Atlanta punter Patrice Louissant for his third blocked punt in the past two games consecutive games and scooted into the end zone for the touchdown in September 2015. West Georgia senior tailback James Kennebrew dives over the pile to score the Wolves’ game-winning touchdown in their 39-35 upset of No. 1 Delta State in November, 2011 at University Stadium.

38 West Georgia Living March/April 2017


Above: Mount Zion wing back Jace Jordan tosses a Randolph County defender aside early in the Eagles’ 25-14 setback to the Tigers in August, 2015. Jordan led the MZ offense with 117 yards and a touchdown on 11 carries, highlighted by a 50-yard score in the first quarter. Right: Mount Zion’s Crofford Helton breaks up a pass intended for Temple’s Alvin Doby during the Eagles’ 32-3 season-opening victory in August 2015.

Carrollton’s Malique Gallon blocks a field goal attempt in the Corky Kell Classic at McEachern in August 2014. The block kept the Trojans in the game at 17-0 and turned into a touchdown on the ensuing drive to bring them back to within 10 points. West Georgia Living March/April 2017 39


GOIN’ ROGUE Douglas runners club provides escape, fun and fitness S ome might think of running as a kind of deliberate torture; where the body is pushed to and beyond its physical limits, in an exhausting exercise that takes place in all weathers.

But for running enthusiasts, it’s just the opposite. Running clears the mind, keeps the body in shape and provides a kind of therapy that is nearly impossible to find through other means. Just ask the members of the Douglas County Rogue Runners, a local running and jogging club founded back in 2003 for west Georgia distance enthusiasts. Participants in the club come in all shapes, sizes and experience levels, but all come for the same reasons. Some are the two-mile-a-day types who run to stay in shape and to try the occasional 5k or 10k. Others are what you might call extreme. They run obscene distances of 30, 50 or even 100 miles at a stretch, pushing their bodies to the absolute limit.

STORY BY HAISTEN WILLIS PHOTOS BY RICKY STILLEY 40 West Georgia Living March/April 2017


Johnny Buice falls into the latter category. Buice, the founder and president of Rogue Runners, has a passion for ultra marathons, which by definition span at least 27 miles, but often go much farther. “Ultramarathon runners are kind of a cult,” Buice said. “You have to train almost every day for something like that.” Buice, a 62-year-old retired Douglas County firefighter, first got into running in 1983. He ran the Peachtree Road Race in Atlanta, aided in training by a friend, and later enlisted Scotty Pope, another friend and firefighter, to run with him. The two began a bit of trash talking, as guys often do, with each challenging the other to longer and longer races. Before long, the two were talking about running a 26-mile marathon. “We did the marathon thing and decided that was way too painful and we’d never do another one of those,” Buice said. “ A couple weeks later we signed up for another one.” The rest, for the most part, is history. The two have great stories to share. Perhaps the best involves the Peachtree Road Race in Atlanta on July 4, 2002, the year after the 9/11 tragedy. Buice and Pope ran the race in full firefighter turnout gear. The next day they woke to phone calls saying their image was

splashed across the front page of the Atlanta newspaper. Buice ran for 20 years before forming his own club with the help of Alexander High School track coach Brian Robinson, who brought with him a lot of local connections in the running world. Today, the club boasts 60 members, with about 30 regulars, who train each week at Hunter Park near downtown Douglasville. The most dedicated members run more than 1,000 miles per year, a feat that earns them a commemorative jacket. The group is close-knit, which is great for friendship and connections, but also a great way to avoid slacking. “If you’re running alone, it might be easy to find an excuse if you’ve had a hard day or the weather is bad,” Buice said. “Running with a group holds you accountable.” The group is more than just a training club for runners. Rogue Runners organizes five races each year, including the Douglasville Moonlight Run, SweetH20 Sweetheart Half Marathon, SweetH20 50k, Blake Gammill 10.5k, 5k and 1-mile fun run, and the Hydrangea Festival 5k. All are held in Douglas County and all have been successful for a number of years. Buice is happy to participate in the shorter 5k and 10k races, but his heart remains in the longer distances. He ran

the Boston Marathon in 2012, and often pushes other club members to stretch out their distances and to move from 10ks to half-marathons, then to marathons and beyond. “I always want people to bump up to the next distance,” Buice said. “If you’ve done a half marathon you can do any distance, it’s just a matter of convincing runners they can do it. If you run a marathon you’re close to an ultramarathon. We always want them to consider bumping it on out there.” One adherent to the uber-long running discipline is Jennifer Sutton, a 15-year veteran of the Douglas County Fire Department who lives in Paulding County. She’s gearing up for the Lake Martin 100, which, as the name suggests, is a 100-mile race held March 18 and 19 near Lake Martin in Alabama. Neither Buice nor Sutton ran on their high school track or cross-country teams, coming to the sport later in life. Once hooked, both followed a similar path to greater and greater distances, culminating in 100-mile trail runs. “I’ve done several distances, including a marathon, 50k, 40-miler and 50-miler,” said Sutton, who began running in 1988. “I wanted to see if I had the physical and mental strength to try and attempt a 100-mile race, so now I’m training for it.” Sutton describes herself as an outdoor person, and she will become very West Georgia Living March/April 2017 41


acquainted with the outdoors during the 100-mile race. The time limit is 32 hours, but she expects to finish somewhere between 25 and 26 hours. She won’t be taking any naps. The training regimen for the race includes about 70 miles a week of running, some of that with the Rogue Runners. Sutton joined the club in 2009 for the camaraderie and is also a long-time friend of Buice. “The club is just a great group of people,” she said. “We are very encouraging of each other. If you have a running issue, somebody has probably experienced it or knows somebody who has dealt with that issue.” When running alone, Sutton loves the solitude, and of course the outdoors. “It’s my time to unwind, get out there and be one with myself.” Not everyone in the club runs to lose weight or even to stay in shape, but that was part of the motivation for Buice. During his time as a firefighter, he discovered that the number one cause of

death in his profession was not smoke inhalation or exposure to fire, but heart attacks. So there’s more to Buice’s love of running than simple exercise. He hopes to encourage fellow current and former firefighters to exercise regularly and keep their health in mind during their careers. “We use it as a way to encourage

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BRING IT ON!

Cheerleading IS sports event where people cheer on cheerleaders? Well, imagine cheerleading as no longer something done on the sidelines. Imagine cheerleading as a separate competitive sport. Not the “Oh Mickey, you’re so fine you blow my mind” cute stuff with fluffy sweater tops, pom-poms and megaphones; this is an event where pint-sized powerhouses do superhuman tumbling, toss teammates 10 feet into the air, catch them, then face the

STORY BY ARTHIA NIXON PHOTOS BY RICKY STILLEY

audience with flawless smiles. All-star cheerleading is not only a sport unto itself, it’s one of the few sports overwhelmingly dominated by females. It has also inspired a film franchise. The five “Bring It On” movies made actresses Kirsten Dunst, Gabrielle Union, Hayden Panettiere, Solange Knowles and Christina Milian into cheerleading role models for thousands of girls. Including quite a few from west Georgia, some whom may someday perform in the biggest sports event of all. “The Olympic committee is going over it right now to make it an Olympic sport,”

a sport! said Jarred Howell, director of ProCheer All-Stars of Carrollton. “It really is an all-out sport, and these girls dedicate a lot of time, effort, and energy into this. “With the University of Georgia cheerleaders winning award after award, some of them coming here to train, the girls get to see where their careers can go, and understand that there are opportunities for them to go further,” he said. “Don’t get it twisted; the movies and shows don’t show cheerleading for the tough work that it is. I personally think some of the movies are doing a disservice to the sport because they take it lightly.” For 17-year-olds Shay Kensey and Sydni West Georgia Living March/April 2017 43


Vaughn, the sacrifice pays off. They cheer at school and with the all-star team, and plan to continue into college. Cheer is a big part of Vaughn’s household. Her mom was once a cheerleader and her stepdad coaches the youth all-star group. The family backyard is one where everyone goes over her routines, working together to get things right. And her parents drive her almost an hour (depending on traffic) just to get to the Carrollton training center – and the Vaughns aren’t the only families doing so.

44 West Georgia Living March/April 2017

“People used to think cheerleading wasn’t so tough, but it really is,” said Vaughn. “Plus, we work really hard on our grades and our parents do a lot as a family to help us in this sport.” “You learn great leadership skills and you have to make sure set a good example, because the little kids are watching you,” added Kinsey, who is an assistant coach to the younger girls. “You make a lot of great friends, but you have to be super disciplined because you are a part of a team and you have to work

together,” Vaughn said. The ProCheer story itself is nothing short of amazing. It began in the mind of Tommy Martin, who is a former UWG cheerleader. Now, ProCheer has three locations in Georgia and trains some of the best cheerleaders in the nation. Martin cheered at UWG for years before going pro as an Atlanta Falcons cheerleader. He went on to be head coach of Georgia State University cheerleading squad, and is now assistant coach of the Clemson University cheerleaders – that is, when


he’s not in demand elsewhere for his award-winning cheer choreography. He has trained an elite squad of the nation’s top 50 All-American cheerleaders who display their talents at major events, and has seen the kids with whom he’s worked go on to secure scholarships in college and the NFL. A few have even cheered in the Super Bowl. “We’re the oldest large co-ed program in the country since 1992,” he said. “It’s been really amazing. Now the teams I have coached are the teams that are competitors. It’s a great sport, great way to further your education, or a great way to learn the fundamentals of owning your own gym.

“I’ve always adored working with kids and we’ve been successful in recruiting some outstanding talent. We create all-around athletes. Some of the guys that Martin has trained are football players. Those athletes find that cheerleading keeps their strength, balance and coordination finely tuned between seasons. Martin says west Georgia is a serious training ground for talent. He said the region dedicates a lot of time to the sport, and ProCheer has worked with several schools as well as individual cheerleaders.

“There is tremendous talent in west Georgia,” he said. UWG is known for their team, and there are several schools on the city and county levels who have brought in some top awards. So, I would say cheerleading is very strong – to the point that people know west Georgia for producing some seriously amazing talent.” So, the next time you see spirit fingers on display, realize the cheerleaders behind it aren’t on the sidelines anymore. They’re front, center, and totally ready to “bring it on.” WGL

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Tourism powered by gymnastics

F

or many young women, gymnastics is the gateway to confidence and poise they will carry into adulthood, and many parents fill with pride at the accomplishments of their daughters. But there is also a reward for cities and communities that invest in gymnastic programs: money. During one recent weekend in Carrollton, for example, nearly 600 athletes attended an event, and those athletes all had to stay somewhere and eat somewhere. That’s why the city works hard each year to attract

46 West Georgia Living March/April 2017

events and to nurture young talent. In fact, Carrollton City Manager Tim Grizzard believes the city’s gymnastics program is the best west of Atlanta - and he might be onto something. In January, the city hosted the AAU Twisted Sisters Gymnastics at the East Carrollton Recreation Center. It was the Carrollton

STORY BY ARTHIA NIXON PHOTOS BY MELANIE BOYD

Parks and Recreation Department’s first major athletic event this year, drawing hundreds of athletes, coaches and parents to town. Carrollton also hosted the 2016 State AAU Gymnastics Meet last April, which CPRD Director Peter Maierhofer called a “flawless” event. These are examples of what the city does each year, using its facilities and programs to not only offer athletic and leisure opportunities for its own residents, young and older, but to also attract competitors and visitors who bring out-of-town dollars into


Molly Costley

the city’s economy. “Our department has been fortunate over the last 40 years in that our community has supported a gymnastics team for young girls,” said Maierhofer. “It has given them opportunities to compete, learn self-discipline, overcome fears, and learn how to win and lose - not only as an individual, but on a team as well.” “I’m glad we have a community, mayor and council that support programs like this in our town,” Maierhofer said. “It is a nurturing environment that helps these young girls follow dreams that they might not have been able to do in another city.” Ali Trent, head coach of the Carrollton Flexettes gymnastics team, gives guidance and direction to young girls who train 18 to 20 hours per week, sacrificing their social time to achieve their dreams, a sacrifice shared by their parents. Trent has been in gymnastics for over two decades and this year she’s dealing with what is known in the coaching world as “postOlympic boom”. That’s the large number of new students who rush to sign up every four years following the Olympic summer games, each in search of a

podium moment, just like Team USA’s “Fab Five”: Simone Biles, Gabrielle Douglas, Madison Kocian, Aly Raisman and Laurie Hernandez, all of whom became pop icons following their win for the United States last year in Rio. “Every four years, the Olympics happen and we get an increase in registration,” said Trent. “There are boys’ classes and those are almost full; we have contracted a boy’s instructor. We don’t have a boys’ competitive program here, but we’re definitely growing in that area and maybe in the future we will see something.” The Flexettes come from all over west Georgia, particularly Carrollton, Newnan and Villa Rica. Trent said the sport requires an entire family to work together, and they have parents who bring dinner for their athletes, then head back out to their jobs before returning to pick them up later. The team has also done well outside of the city, representing in several states including Georgia, Florida, Tennessee, Kansas, Louisiana and New York. In Carrollton, there is also a newly formed gymnastics team at Carrollton High School.

Abigail Pike


“The sport and the talent looks very promising in this community,” said Trent. “Carrollton High School’s gymnastics team does come here to train, and they actually started 48 West Georgia Living March/April 2017

coming in January. We don’t necessarily train together, because the Georgia High School Association and USAG have different requirements for each of those and they

don’t necessarily collaborate, but a lot of our kids to compete for the high school team was well.” WGL


PHENOM Ansley Barge is true triple threat: someone who is a master of three sports: in her case, those sports are basketball, softball and lacrosse. To use another sports term, she’s a “phenom”. A student at Carrollton High School, she has three older brothers who all played, or will play, college football. Her father was an All-American basketball player at the University of West Georgia and a former CHS assistant football and basketball coach. Ansley is a junior and has been playing sports all her life.

PHOTOS BY RICKY STILLEY West Georgia Living March/April 2017 49


50 West Georgia Living March/April 2017


LAISSEZ LES BON TEMPS ROULER

FEASTS WITH A CAJUN KICK STORY BY ROB DUVÉ PHOTOS BY RICKY STILLEY


FOOD

GETTING READY FOR MARDI GRAS

T

he first of the year means different things to different people, but to me it will always mean that it’s time for the King Cakes to come out, the parades to begin, and a new strings of beads to collect.

Blackened Redfish with Shrimp Etouffee

It is, in fact, Mardi Gras season and Fat Tuesday is upon us. The season of food and drink begins in earnest shortly after the first of the year and it never disappoints. After all, there are a lot of dishes and even more cocktails to take part of in a short period of time, and as we all know Ash Wednesday is when all that is supposed to come to an end. Although, I’m not Catholic, I can get entirely behind the Lowcountry tradition of seafood during Lent. For my taste, seafood is much a part of Festival season as it is part of Lent, so I do everything in my power to take advantage of what can only be described as a season of fully sanctioned gluttony. This explains the favorites I’ll present in this edition.

Cajun Seasoning

each person has their own flair, additions, and special secrets. As I always say, feel free to take this base and make it yours, since little of this and a touch of that can make a simple blend of spices take on a life of its own.

With so many famous chefs putting out own their own blends of spices, it’s hard to find anyone still making their own Cajun or Creole spice blends. That’s a shame, since it’s as much of some folks’ identity as is their fingerprints. Like barbecue rub,

1 cup paprika ½ cup salt (optional) 8 teaspoons garlic powder 8 teaspoons onion powder 8 teaspoons cayenne 2 tablespoons white pepper 2 tablespoons black pepper

But first, a word about seasoning.

52 West Georgia Living March/April 2017

2 tablespoons basil leaves, crushed 2 tablespoons oregano leaves, crushed 2 tablespoons thyme leaves, crushed 4 teaspoons dry mustard 2 teaspoons sugar One mistaken belief about Cajun seasoning is that it’s supposed to be hot. Nothing could be further from the truth. However, if you are interested in taking a flavor spice blend and creating rocket powder, feel free to add extra cayenne and plenty of white pepper. That should bring tears to a few people’s eyes.


WITH A PARADE OF CAJUN DISHES Seafood & Mirliton Stuffed Eggplant

Seafood & Mirliton Stuffed Eggplant Mirliton, otherwise known as chayote squash, is a small and slightly sweet member of the gourd family with a very delicate and unique taste that’s difficult to describe, but with attributes that pair well with most seafood, especially shrimp. But of course, we can’t simply limit it to shrimp, now can we? 4 chayote squash 4 large eggplants 1 pound medium Gulf shrimp, roughly chopped 12 large oysters, shucked and roughly chopped ½ pound lump crab meat 1 cup diced yellow onion 1 cup diced green pepper 1 cup diced celery 4 cloves garlic, minced 2 cup Italian bread crumbs 1 cup grated parmesan 2 tablespoons Cajun seasoning 1 cups shrimp stock Juice of two lemons For Fried Eggplant 2 cups buttermilk

2 eggs Flour for coating Italian breadcrumbs for coating Place mirlitons in a pot of boiling water deep enough to cover by about an inch and boil until very tender; about an hour. When they are very tender, drain water and cover with ice to chill. Once they are cool enough to handle, use a spoon to scrape off the outer peel, cut in half and scoop out the pit, then chop into 1 inch squares. Set aside for now. In a medium sauté pan over high heat, sauté onion, pepper, and celery until just translucent, then add garlic and sauté for another minute. In a large bowl, mix mirliton with the remaining ingredients – except for the eggplant – and mix until completely combined. Place in a baking dish and bake at 300 degrees until the shrimp and oysters are cooked through. Peel the eggplant, split in half, and scoop out the center to create a “boat”. Mix eggs and buttermilk in a large bowl. Dust the eggplant “boats” thoroughly with flour and let stand for a minute or so, then dredge in the buttermilk egg mixture and coat completely with Italian breadcrumbs. Deep fry the eggplant until it reaches a deep brown color.

Quick Tip Attempts to blacken fish or other items can be made in pans that aren’t cast iron, but more often than not, you’ll find the results to be slightly lacking. That’s because the cast iron will hold a great deal more heat than most other pans. In order to get a proper blacken, the heat must remain constant and high. If you don’t have a cast iron skillet, it’s worth buying or borrowing one.

Stuff eggplant with mixture, dust with parmesan cheese, and bake at 375 degree until the cheese West Georgia Living March/April 2017 53


begins to brown. Serve while very hot.

Blackened Redfish with Shrimp Etouffee By itself, blackened redfish is a standalone entree without equal. The flaky, white, and firm textured fish carries spices well, and is firm enough to handle the high temperature that blackening requires. Not that this dish needs anything to make it better, but pouring a fresh shrimp etouffee over it while it rests on a bed of rice couldn’t hurt.

Shrimp Etouffee ½ cup diced red peppers ½ cup diced green peppers ½ cup diced yellow onion 3 cloves garlic, minced ½ stick unsalted butter 3/4 cup flour 2 cups shrimp stock 1 tablespoon Cajun seasoning

1 bay leaf 1 pound medium Gulf shrimp Sea salt and fresh ground pepper to taste In a medium sauté pan over medium high heat, sauté vegetables and garlic in a touch of oil until a few edges begin to look scorched. Turn the heat down to medium and melt the butter in the same pan, then whisk in the flour and cook, stirring constantly, for about 1-2 minutes, then whisk in the shrimp stock. The sauce should be just thick enough to stick to the rice you will put it over. If it is too thick, just add a bit more shrimp stock. Add bay leaf and let simmer for about 10 minutes. Just before serving, add the shrimp and cook until done through.

Blackened Redfish 2 redfish fillets, scaled with the skin on ½ cup Cajun seasoning ¼ stick unsalted butter 1 large cast iron skillet Lay fillets out flesh side up and cover liberally with Cajun seasoning, then let sit for about two minutes to make sure the spices stick properly to the fish. While waiting, place cast iron skillet over medium

high heat. Melt the butter in the skillet until the butter begins to scorch and turn brown. Shake excess spice from the fillets and place spice side down in the skillet, then cook until the fish begins to cook up the sides. Lift one edge to make sure it has blackened properly, and flip. Cook until the skin is crispy and fish is cooked through. Place one fillet over one cup cooked jasmine rice and top with etouffee. Garnish with finely chopped green onions and serve.

As I mentioned before, feel free to play with the spices listed here in varying quantities and adjust them to your needs and wants. A blackened steak covered with melted blue cheese is hard to pass up and I always like to sprinkle a little spice on the edge of a bowl of alfredo for a garnish. One way or another, live it up quick since Lent can sneak up on you. But if you get the right ingredients, you can live it up before, during and even after that most solemn of holidays. WGL

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ARTIST’S CORNER

Inspired by Nature

Don McWhorter’s original artworks are rooted in his family farm

D

on McWhorter still remembers exploring deep in the woods at his family’s farm in Bowdon as a boy, going far enough in to find a quiet space with nothing but leaves, trees and nature for company. “I’d lie down next to a bed of moss or an old tree trunk, especially in the autumn and spring, look up at the sky and escape into the imagination,” he said. “I remember birds that would not even know I was there

STORY BY HAISTEN WILLIS PHOTOS BY RICKY STILLEY

and land just a foot or two from me.” Nearly 60 years later, McWhorter still holds those memories near. He’s long since left the 265-acre farm for a home in Carrollton, and his work has taken him far and wide in search of an audience for his work. But the farm, and the trees and leaves, remain his inspiration to this day. Elements of nature can be seen, in one form or another, in nearly everything he has created over a 45-year career. McWhorter first honed those skills as a student at what was then called West Georgia College, and he remains a Carrollton resident. West Georgia Living March/April 2017 55


“Pottery is what sustained me through all these years, and it remains my passion still to this day,” he said. He creates and sells pottery for a living and works to promote the arts in the area. McWhorter has won best in show at shows in Sausalito, Cal., and Tuscaloosa, Ala., and best in show overall at the ArteGras festival in Jupiter, Fla. His work can be found in the homes of his customers, in museums, and in lobbies and hallways for corporate clients. It’s a surprisingly competitive business, in which 300 artists may compete for 30 spots at a prestigious show. McWhorter’s first experience with a potter’s wheel came as a student at West Georgia. A 1970 graduate of Bowdon High School, he initially majored in geology and made a decent living playing in local bands. Then he got his first shot at a potter’s wheel while taking an art appreciation class. One time was all it took; McWhorter was hooked, and he’s still hooked. McWhorter said he had been happy with his course work until he was exposed to someone on the potter’s wheel. “This was in 1972,” he said. “I was amazed with the wheel and fascinated. I finally got hands on the clay and on the wheel. That fascination is still there after 45 years. He changed majors, kept geology as a minor, and spent as much time during the day as he could in the studio. McWhorter was an assistant there for two years and was paid for 56 West Georgia Living March/April 2017

eight hours of work a week, though in truth he spent closer to 20 hours a week there.

pot might take up to 30, or even 40 hours to make.

After making and displaying a few pieces at local shows, he was approached for the first time about selling something he had made for a profit.

And while pottery may not sound like the most exciting or dangerous profession, firing a piece in a kiln is not a walk in the park. Temperatures can reach up to 2,400 degrees during the process of making a piece, hotter than some active volcanoes. If taken care of, the finished product can last 25,000 years or longer.

“Somebody said, ‘oh that’s beautiful, how much would you sell it for?’ When you’re 19 or 20 years old and have fallen in love with this principle, this incredibly rewarding craft, and have somebody willing to give you money for it, something clicked and it clicked in a pretty big way,” McWhorter said. “I don’t think I sold that piece or the next one, but eventually I made hundreds of pieces and it was easy to let some go.” McWhorter graduated from West Georgia in 1975, and bought a house near Lake Carroll in 1979, where he still lives. The freedom that accompanied entrepreneurship and directly selling what he made fit his personality, and the business has done well. He has two grown children, Arielle and Alex, and a fiancée named Sally Austin. McWhorter’s work is more dedicated to form than function. “It has evolved today to being more of an expression of art through form more than function,” he said. “I may have a teapot, but it’s more about the decoration, the emotion I hope the viewer sees in the piece.” It’s not a quick process, either. A single tea-

Throughout the years, McWhorter has mostly defied trends and kept to a consistent style in his work. At first it was easy to sell because consumers were getting tired of buying things made from plastic. Then it became harder during the 1990s and early 2000s, and now easier again thanks to a younger generation that appears to have a greater appreciation for authenticity. However, in this internet age, he does not maintain a website, working as he has for decades through word-of-mouth and through displaying his work at shows across the country. Some are held in San Diego, some Denver or Dallas, some in various cities in Florida, and some are even held right here in west Georgia. McWhorter helped found, with a local couple named Tom and Jan Nielsen, the Carrollton Artist Guild and an event called the Carrollton Festival of the Arts, with the aim of bringing some of the country’s top artists to west Georgia. The event (formerly known as Meccafest)


takes place each October, and has drawn participants from as far away as Alaska. Another extension of his passion involves visiting schools to speak to children both locally and in large cities. “Sometimes it will be a very urban, low-income area, and they’ve never even seen a potter’s wheel before,” he said. “I incorporate the idea that maybe we are this chunk of clay. Maybe we have control of how we form ourselves. Those who will control what we become are the people we let into our lives, and those that will help us stay centered are those that want to help shape us in glorious ways.” That inspiration is still there for him when he speaks about his passion for pottery, just as it was at the family farm and at West Georgia four decades ago. “I’m still 20 at heart when I’m creating artwork,” McWhorter said. “I’m still the kid walking in and seeing the potter’s wheel for the first time. I’m still that every day that I go to the wheel.” WGL

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GARDEN

Gardening Athletics H

Getting back into your spring jeans

aving stuffed myself with goodies for the past three months, I am now in panic mode about the pounds I have added around my middle, hips, thighs, chins, and cheeks. Why are all my friends such good cooks? Why do they keep coming around with forbidden fruit? I have no one to blame but my own weak resistance. And now, what to do?

of the mail order “crowns” came up, made lovely four and five-foot-tall fern like fronds, then have dried up and fallen over in a pale beige heap. In two more years we can harvest a few and then expect an ever more bountiful amount for 20 or more years. Right now, however, I must lean and twist and carry all of this to the street. Lean, twist and carry exercise for Eaters’ Anonymous.

The weather has been frightful, I think, but nothing like what those poor Yankees have had to contend with. I must get out and move about. Although the gym is a good thing and Silver Sneakers is a remarkable free program for old fatties like me, I like to get something accomplished while I’m attempting to locate my rib cage again. There are many outdoor tasks I left in November for some imaginary fairy gardener to finish.

Along the garden border lies an extensive mix of hydrangea types. Penny Mac, old fashioned Annabelle, Endless Summer, Nikko Blue. They are all covered with drooping dried leaves and crispy brown blooms, all needing a severe neatening up. My knees are killing me! This is a terribly difficult job, no doubt about it.

Day lily stalks are still waving around in the winter chill, along with fronds of society garlic, evidence of Japanese iris, and that of the smaller Stella de Oro day lilies. If I hold my breath, I can almost bend over enough to clip them off with my new clippers from Santa. Dried chrysanthemums, bunched as if for an autumn bridesmaid, stand 12 inches high around the edges of my three prized peonies, which also need a winter’s trim. The mums were a lovely yellow and bronze, mixed among tiny blooms of pink and white asters. Maybe, now that they are the color of rusted tin, I should trim them back just above the ground? I know they will push up green ruffles with the warm weather arriving soon. Just beyond is a mallow whose stalks tower over me. This summer they were crowned with perennial eight-inch-wide hot pink hibiscus blossoms. It’s time to cut them down to about six inches high. My back and shoulders muscles scream in time with the 58 West Georgia Living March/April 2017

Autumn Bridesmaid unaccustomed exercise. My back is aching and as my favorite doctor recommends, it’s time for a spell with the heating pad on the sun room sofa. I think of the miracle that is nature and how reliably the seasons turn. Pondering about how little thought and appreciation we give to this wondrous fact, I’m back outside soon, surveying the remains of my first year’s experiment with asparagus. The doctor built a raised bed for me and all

STORY AND PHOTOS BY KITTY BARR

A group of five variegated lacecap hydrangeas loom at my middle parts. At least the blooms are about waist high, so there’s not so much back pain as I pull them off and drop then into my trusty green plastic wagon. The lower leaves and dead branches require lots of deep thigh stretches and knee bends. As I trim hydrangea branches, I’m always surprised at the green underneath of what appears to be dead wood. This is the opportunity to shape up a scraggly bush knowing it will green up and branch out just where I clipped. Surely I’ve firmed up something, maybe an upper arm? Two years ago, I put in a flat of the ground cover: ajuga. Most of it never reappeared last spring, so I bought more of the chocolate chip variety with dark purple/brown narrow leaves. Now I understand why so many never survived. My hapless mow, blow and go guy covered them all with a thick layer of sweet gum, yes, sadly for me, sweet gum leaves. You know, those tall ungainly trees with the horrible annoying prickly balls that can trip you up. One great exercise is bending over and grab-


bing large handfuls of wet leaves and tossing them under the shrubbery, then brushing more wet leaves off of the sunlight starved ajuga. A particularly delightful variety has pale gray and pink leaves. It is a sunbather and a lovely patch is coming along nicely out by the arbor upon which I have been successful at growing nothing. I see many downed limbs that need to be removed from my garden. Another exercise movement is either dragging them all the way to the curb, or stomping on them, or swinging them against a handy tree trunk to break them into manageable sizes for said dragging. An arm and shoulder workout all in one. After our fabulous and much needed rains, these branches and limbs are heavy with moisture and hopefully increase my calorie burn.

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Green Ruffles Those of you who have read my columns in the past know how strongly I emphasize reading the label when purchasing a plant. When you want a shrub for a three-foot square space, be certain it will not grow to be a 10X10-foot giant. My point is to advise that you read all labels on everything, especially things that will go into your mouths and then onto your middles. If you read the label on that candy bar you always buy at the gardening center checkout (and consume before you even get to the

Asparagus car), you will be appalled at the high number of calories it contains. I have, unfortunately, researched the number of miles I would have to walk after having eaten said bar, and it is a distance not worth the temporary enjoyment and the aforesaid permanent hip/jeans displacement. Slimming down into last year’s slacks is a money saver. Buying new larger ones gives us permission to keep buying that candy to fill out that new roomy waist. Buy the right size plant for your garden and keep the right

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BOOKS

Grit Lit “Blood, Bone

and Marrow: a Biography of Harry Crews.” Ted Geltner University of Georgia Press, 2016

W

riters (and other creative people) with extreme lifestyles represent a unique segment of modern mythology in popular culture. Stories abound of larger-than-life writers, artists, and performers whose exploits become the subjects of their own creative efforts. Their mantra could be William Blake’s line “The road of excess leads to the Palace of Wisdom.”

Southern writer Harry Crews certainly exemplifies those extremes, in his writing as well as in his personal life. Ted Geltner’s biography explores Crews’ bohemian life in a biography that reads like the plot of one of Crews’ rollicking Southern Gothic novels. From the beginning, Crews’ life of desperate poverty as the son of tenant farmers in south Georgia was filled with violence, tragedy, and desolation. When he was small, his father died and Crews’ violent, hard-drinking uncle stepped into the paternal role. When he was five, Crews contracted polio, a disease that left him with a pronounced limp. As he was recovering from the debilitating disease, he fell into a pot of scalding water as his mother and others were cleaning a hog carcass. Crews survived that traumatic accident,

ROBERT C. COVEL 62 West Georgia Living March/April 2017

(with a side of Southern Gothic)


his young life scarred, physically and emotionally, before he was six years old. Despite the brutality of his childhood, Crews discovered escapes that would prove to be significant in his eventual creative career. As a child, he and his friend, Willalee Bookatee, the child of a black family, entertained themselves telling stories about the models in the Sears Roebuck catalog. Crews recalled those stories in his memoir, “A Childhood: the Biography of a Place.” Geltner recounts the two boys creating stories about the figures in the catalog, stories that were an unlikely mix of imagined lives of both privilege and violence. In those stories, the reader sees the seeds of Crews’ novels, filled with the same fantastic characters and events. The other escape for the young Harry Crews was reading. Despite being a poor student in high school, Crews began reading, escaping into a world of fiction as he dreamed of becoming a writer. The final escape for Crews, a real physical escape, was joining the Marines shortly after graduating from high school, as he found the rigors of Marine boot camp preferable to that of his childhood in Bacon County, Georgia. Crews served his three years in the Marines, the Korean conflict ending before he finished boot camp. He left the Marines and, with the GI Bill to support him, he headed to the University of Florida to begin his dream of becoming a writer. His mentor in the creative writing program, the iconic southern writer Andrew Lytle, encouraged and shaped his ability to tell a story. While learning to write, Crews embarked on the often-outrageous and extreme life-

style that became the pattern for the rest of his life. Riding motorcycles, drinking and chasing women was one side of his life; reading, discussing books and writing in his classes was another. Two of his girlfriends became pregnant, and while one miscarried, he married the other, Sally Ellis, a conventional middleclass girl whose father owned a business. Their subsequent life was tumultuous. They had two children, divorced and remarried, as Crews continued his unrestrained lifestyle on his way to becoming a writer. The reader follows Crews’ outrageous life, his encounters with the rich and famous (and notorious) people, including Madonna and Sean Penn, Jack Kerouac, and Charles Bronson. Geltner’s account of Crews’ life is as honest and unflinching as Crews’ novels. Geltner recounts the details of Crews’ unconventional personal life, the drinking and drugs, the promiscuous relationships, holding back nothing. Crews’ novels fit the subgenre of Southern Gothic, along with the works of Erskine Caldwell, Flannery O’Conner, William Faulkner, and other Southern writers who explore the fringes of human culture. Crews’ protagonists often spring from poor, deprived backgrounds like Crews himself; a segment of society that he referred to as Grits. The novels are filled with unconventional characters such as carnival people, professional bodybuilders, midgets, snake handlers, and karate masters. The interactions of the blue-collar protagonists with the society’s fringe elements create an unusual hybrid subgenre of Grit Lit and Southern Gothic. While the plots seem outrageous and unbelievable, they often spring from

Harry Crews’ own life, as Ted Geltner demonstrates in his biography. As a reader first exposed to Crews’ writing may be surprised or even shocked, so may the reader of Geltner’s biography. The mature subject matter and language may not be for the faint of heart, but in the interests of honesty and accuracy Geltner presents an unflinching account of Crews’ life. The style of Geltner’s book does not follow the traditional literary style of an author’s biography. This is fast-paced narrative; almost a novelization of a larger-than-life man who lived life on his own terms. Writers create their works out of their physical and internal lives, following the dictum “Write out of what you know.” As spiders spin their webs from the threads they produce, writers weave a web of characters, plots, and themes that flow from their own being. If their writing is honest, direct, and insightful, it will ensnare the reader’s mind in the narrative web. Crews has been called “an underappreciated literary treasure.” His unique blend of “Grit Lit” and Southern Gothic may surprise the unsuspecting reader. Geltner weaves a sometimes surprising but honest and worthwhile biography of a unique literary talent. WGL

Author Bio Ted Geltner is an associate professor of journalism at Valdosta State University. He is adviser to the campus newspaper. He has worked for a number of newspapers, including the Gainesville Sun, the Scranton SunTimes, and the Ocala Star-Banner.

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the Pathway of Grief: The Benefits

Heritage School ......................................66

of a Final Resting Place for Your Loved One.

Springtime in Georgia’s State Parks

Scott & Ellen McBrayer/ Jones Wynn Funeral

& Historic Sites

Home ................................................... 70

Georgia State Parks & Historic Sites ............67

How To Discover the Power of My Neck Pain

Words

Tanner Health System ..............................68

Crossroads Church ................................. 71

64 West Georgia Living March/April 2017


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What every West Georgian should know about... IT’S GO TIME: RESTARTING YOUR IRRIGATION SYSTEM THE RIGHT WAY

Spring is in the air… and in your lawn, too. Green up times vary a lot by variety and according to the date of last freeze – so keep an eye on the weather. But in our area, it’s usually safe to restart your irrigation once March rolls around. Just be sure the last deep freeze has come and gone to reduce the risk of damaging your pipes and sprinkler heads.

1. Undo the winter fix

Restarting your irrigation system in the spring is a much simpler task than winterizing it. If you have a lawn care service handle your mowing, they’ll likely do it for you. But you can easily do it yourself, too.

Helen Albrightson Business Manager Qualifications A native of Wisconsin, Helen joined NG Turf in 2001. Her responsibilities include oversight of internal functions including accounting, sales, marketing and human resources. Helen has been a Certified Turfgrass Professional since 2005.

First make sure the timer system is off. Then, locate your backflow system – usually a bronze set of pipes with valves on it situated near a wall outside the house. Use a flathead screwdriver to close the drain valves (screwdriver channel will be perpendicular to the pipe when closed). Leave the larger water flow valves in the open (parallel) position. Now go inside…

2. Start slow

Head over to the main valve for your sprinkler system – it’s often right next to the main water line coming into your house. While the system is off, the valve will be perpendicular to the pipe. To fill your system with water, turn the valve very slowly to the on (parallel) position. Do this too fast, and you risk breaking a pipe, valve, or sprinkler head with the water pressure. Once you can no longer hear the hiss of water in the pipe, the system is charged and ready to test.

3. Test

Go back outside and do a visual inspection. If you see any water, you

have a leak. Make note of the leak’s source, turn the system back off and arrange for repair. If you see no leaks, head over to the timer box and select the “test all zones” setting. Do another walk-around to make sure everything looks as it should. Make note of any sprinkler heads not popping up or zones that need to be realigned. DIY or call a pro – it’s up to you.

4. Calibrate Most lawns require about 1 inch of water a week, including rainfall. Once you know your system is functioning properly, it’s time to recalibrate. Set out 5 – 10 identical containers throughout your lawn and let your system run for about 30 minutes. If your containers are light plastic, weigh them down with a rock or washer to avoid tipping. Measure the depth of the water in each container (after removing the rock!) and take an average for all the containers. Then do a little math to figure out how long your system will need to run to apply 1 inch of water. Then spread this amount of time out throughout the week when you set your timer system. Keep monitoring your system throughout the growing season. Be on the lookout for areas of your lawn that get swampy or spots that quickly go brown and dry with the heat. Both over and under watering can damage your lawn.

Questions? Call NG Turf at (770) 832-8608.


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What every West Georgian should know about... ENVIRONMENTAL EDUCATION

Many people think of Environmental Education as simply teaching about recycling or water conservation. Environmental Education, (or EE as it is known) is a process that allows individuals to explore environmental issues, engage in problem solving, and take action to improve the environment. As a result, individuals develop a deeper understanding of environmental concerns and acquire the skills to make informed and responsible decisions regarding their impact on the environment. Implementing organized efforts to teach how natural environments function and how human beings can manage behavior as well as ecosystems in order to live sustainably are the ultimate goals of an Environmental Education program. As one can see, these are commitments to behavioral change that need to be made, and thus the word “process� is most important in the definition of Environmental Education. The awareness and conversion takes time.

Ben Marchman

Environmental Education Coordinator/Teacher at The Heritage School Qualifications After graduating from Heritage (class of 2003) , Ben earned a Bachelor of Science in Wilderness Leadership and Experimental Education with a Minor in Environmental Studies from Brevard College in North Carolina. It was during these years that Ben realized that he might like teaching as a career. Employment as an outdoor instructor and counselor at the Boojum Institute in California, where he engaged at-risk youth in outdoor therapy that taught group dynamics, coping skills, self-reliance and leadership in the wilderness of places like the Sierra Nevada Mountains, reinforced the idea that he liked working with youth and wanted to teach.

outside or bringing nature indoors provides an excellent backdrop or context for interdisciplinary learning. 6. Biophobia and nature deficit disorder decline By exposing students to nature and allowing them to learn and play outside, EE fosters sensitivity, appreciation, and respect for the environment. It combats nature deficit disorder, and it’s FUN! 7.

Healthy lifestyles are encouraged

EE gets students outside and active, and helps address some of the health issues we are seeing in children today, such as obesity, attention deficit disorders, and depression. Good nutrition is often emphasized through EE and stress is reduced due to increased time spent in nature.

It is important to start teaching the youngest students about the environment to create environmental awareness. Their understanding of what impacts the environment grows and they develop skills to help resolve environmental challenges. Participation in activities that lead to the resolution of environmental challenges 8. Communities are strengthened being the ultimate goal of the program. EE promotes a sense of place and connection through community involvement. Top 10 Benefits of Environmental Education (From the Environmental Protection When students decide to learn more or take action to improve their environment, Agency website) they reach out to community experts, donors, volunteers, and local facilities to help 1. Imagination and enthusiasm are heightened bring the community together to understand and address environmental issues impacting their neighborhood. EE is hands-on, interactive learning that sparks the imagination and unlocks creativity. When EE is integrated into the curriculum, students are more enthusiastic 9. Responsible action is taken to better the environment and engaged in learning, which raises student achievement in core academic areas. EE helps students understand how their decisions and actions affect the 2. Learning transcends the classroom environment, builds knowledge and skills necessary to address complex Not only does EE offer opportunities for experiential learning outside of the environmental issues, as well as ways we can take action to keep our environment classroom, it enables students to make connections and apply their learning in healthy and sustainable for the future. Service-learning programs offered by PLT the real world. EE helps learners see the interconnectedness of social, ecological, and other EE organizations provide students and teachers with support through economic, cultural, and political issues. grants and other resources for action projects. 3. Critical and creative thinking skills are enhanced 10. Students and teachers are empowered EE encourages students to research, investigate how and why things happen, and make their own decisions about complex environmental issues. By developing and EE promotes active learning, citizenship, and student leadership. It empowers youth enhancing critical and creative thinking skills, EE helps foster a new generation of to share their voice and make a difference at their school and in their communities. informed consumers, workers, as well as policy or decision makers. EE helps teachers build their own environmental knowledge and teaching skills. 4. Tolerance and understanding are supported I hope these “top ten� benefits will give you the confidence and commitment to EE encourages students to investigate varying sides of issues to understand the full incorporate EE into your curriculum! picture. It promotes tolerance of different points of view and different cultures. 5.

State and national learning standards are met for multiple subjects

By incorporating EE practices into the curriculum, teachers can integrate science, math, language arts, history, and more into one rich lesson or activity, and still satisfy numerous state and national academic standards in all subject areas. Taking a class

Learn more at www.heritageschool.com

Come Experience Heritage.

The Heritage School is an independent school in Newnan, Georgia serving Pre-Kindergarten through Twelfth Grade students and families from diverse communities. Inspired by some of the very EHVWWHDFKHUVLQ*HRUJLDFKLOGUHQĂ€QGEDODQFH at The Heritage School - balance that empowers them to think creatively, act independently, and feel compassionately.

APPLY ONLINE NOW www.heritageschool.com Bus Service Available from Carrollton To schedule a tour contact: Lory Pendergrast, Director of Admissions admissions@heritageschool.com 2093 Highway 29 North | Newnan, GA 30263 | 678.423.5393


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$6. every West Georgian should know about... XLI (;(57 What SPRINGTIME IN GEORGIA’S STATE PARKS & HISTORIC SITES.

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Q Now that it’s warming up, people are ready to get outdoors. What can they do in our state parks?

Kim Hatcher Georgia State Parks & Historic Sites Kim has been promoting Georgia’s State Parks and Historic Sites since 1993 and serves as a spokesperson for the Department of Natural Resources.

We’re fortunate to have an abundance of recreational opportunities in our state. We offer trails for hiking, biking and horseback riding, plus lakes for fishing and boating. Visitors can rent stand-up paddleboards, bicycles and other fun equipment. Younger children will enjoy playgrounds and splash pads, while older kids can go geocaching or play disc golf. Some parks offer affordable golf courses with pro shops. Plus we have a range of accommodations, from campsites to cabins. I especially like our “glamping” yurts which are like a cross between a tent and cabin. Q Do state parks and historic sites offer many programs during spring? Yes, we have a full calendar of events, and this year’s theme is “Soak It In” as we offer many water-based programs. Sweetwater Creek and Chattahoochee Bend offer guided paddling excursions, and you can even rent kayaks and canoes at the parks. Wildflowers start blooming, so rangers often lead guided hikes to see pretty flowers. Etowah Indian Mounds in Cartersville hosts its annual heritage day on March 11 where you can learn about Native American history. Most ranger-led programs are posted on www.GaStateParks.org/events, plus you’ll find even more on the parks’ individual webpages. 

To learn more, visit GeorgiaStateParks.org/ reservations or call 800-864-7275.

Q How can we learn more about State Parks? We have a great website – www.GaStateParks. org – where you can get the latest news, make reservations and learn about discounts. I encourage people to click on the map because they’re often surprised by how many state parks and historic sites we have in Georgia. It’s a good way to discover a new favorite getaway. You can also call 1-800-8647275 to request a park guide and make reservations. Q   I’ve heard you also have activity clubs. Absolutely! We have activity challenges that encourage people to explore all corners of the state while enjoying outdoor recreation. People can do these on their own schedule, so there are no actual club meetings. For example, our Canyon Climbers Club is for those who have scaled to the top of Amicalola Falls, explored the bottom of Providence Canyon, braved the swinging bridge in Tallulah Gorge and tackled the staircase in Cloudland Canyon. After completing all four hikes, you earn a members-only t-shirt and bragging rights. We have a Muddy Spokes Club for biking, and Park Paddlers Club for kayaking and canoeing. The newest is Tails on Trails, which encourages visitors to hike with their four-legged friends. At the end, the owner gets a t-shirt and the dog gets a matching bandana. There are even more clubs listed on www. GaStateParks.org/parkclubs and some parks offer ranger-led hikes as part of the clubs.

Soak it all in

View our online state parks guide!

Outdoor Adventures Unique Accommodations Equipment Rentals

Join us as we celebrate the ways we play in and depend on water. From fishing workshops to contests to see who can catch the most fish in one day, we’ll get you outside enjoying Georgia’s lakes, rivers and marshes. Throughout 2017, we’ll be posting events for the entire family to enjoy at GaStateParks.org/ SoakItIn. So whether you’re simply learning how to bait a hook, or looking for the title of “Best Angler” amongst your friends, we’ve got plenty of opportunities for you to soak it all in. Visit GaStateParks.org to make your reservation today! GaStateParks.org | 800-434-0982 reservations


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What every West Georgian should know about Neck Pain What causes neck pain?

When should I see a doctor for neck pain?

Your neck is often exposed and at risk for injury due to its purpose and prominent location on your body. So it’s not unexpected that many different things can cause neck pain. These include:

Anyone experiencing sudden or on-going neck pain, which can range from mild discomfort to disabling chronic pain, should make an appointment with an orthopedic specialist as soon as possible to prevent further damage to the structures of the neck and to alleviate the pain.

• Abnormal growth/tumor • Arthritis • Cervical (neck) disk degeneration • Congenital abnormalities

Brad Prybis, MD

• Herniated (slipped) or protruding disk

Carrollton Orthopaedic Clinic

• Injury/strain

Qualifications:

• Tumors

Dr. Prybis earned his medical degree at the Medical College of Georgia in Augusta. He completed an internship and residency in orthopedic surgery at Palmetto Richland Memorial Hospital in Columbia, S.C., followed by a

fellowship in spine surgery at the renowned Maryland

Scoliosis and Spine Center in Towson, Md. Dr. Prybis

specializes in treating patients with problems involving the

spine, such as neck and back pain, scoliosis, herniated disks, degeneration, injuries and tumors.

How is neck pain diagnosed and treated? Patients with neck pain often report one or more of these symptoms: a tender spot, a sharp pain, stiffness, spasms, a burning or tingling sensation, or even a weakness in their shoulder, arm or hand. Testing to diagnose the underlying cause of the pain usually includes an X-ray, MRI or CT scan. Treatments for neck pain depend on the diagnosis, but can run the gamut from rest to anti-inflammatory medicines, physical therapy and even surgery.

What can you do to prevent neck pain? For a strong, pain-free neck, you can do some simple exercises that will strengthen and stretch the soft tissues of the neck, including the muscles, ligaments and tendons. These include: shoulder stretches (make small circles with your shoulders, forward then backward); side stretches (slowly try to touch your ear to your shoulder on one side then the other); and rotations (slowly turn your head to the left, then right as far as you can comfortably, holding each stretch for 10-15 seconds). Another way to avoid neck pain is to be aware of and work to maintain good neck posture when sitting, working, reading and even standing. And finally, don’t sleep with too many or too few pillows, causing an unnatural bend in your neck.

For more information, visit www.TannerOrtho.org.

ADVANCING

YOUR GIDDY-UP

What does back pain stop you from enjoying? It’s hard to say no to fun. But back pain limits the kind of grandparent you can be. It’s time to stop hurting and start making the most of this special time in your grandchildren’s lives. At Tanner, our renowned spine specialists offer a range of minimally invasive and non-surgical solutions to help you get back in the saddle. Find a spine specialist on staff at the Tanner Ortho and Spine Center by calling 770.214.CARE. Learn more online at TannerOrtho.org.

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Jason Harden, D.V.M

Carroll County Animal Hospital

Qualifications: Dr. Jason Harden is a native of Carrollton, GA. He graduated from Oak Mountain Academy and continued on to the University of Georgia where he received his degree in Biology and his doctorate in veterinary medicine. His interests in veterinary medicine include surgery, exotic medicine, and ophthalmology. Dr. Harden is married to Chloe Harden, and they have 2 children, Maggie and Reese. He is a member of the American Veterinary Medical Association, the Georgia Veterinary Medical Association, and the American Animal Hospital Association. He is the chairman of the Oak Mountain Academy school board, a member of the Carrollton Lions Club, and on the board of directors of the Carroll County Chamber of Commerce.

What every West Georgian should know about dental disease in their pets We hear it time and time again, “My pet’s breath is horrible. Is there a reason for this?� Most often times when this is the case, there is a problem. What we see in most cases is that their pet needs their teeth cleaned. Sometimes there can be other causes for bad breath, but the most common is an overgrowth of bacteria which can tunnel under the gum line and release toxins that weaken the tooth. Over time, plaque build ups on the teeth and begins to push the gum away from the tooth even more and can lead to a host of other problems with the teeth such as tooth loss and abscesses. These same bacteria that collect in the plaque on your pets teeth like to explore as well. Once they have invaded the gum line they will get into the bloodstream and can infect other organs. Most commonly, they will infect a valve in the heart and can cause your pet to go into early heart failure as a result of the underlying dental disease. Significant dental disease can also make it difficult to manage certain conditions, like diabetes.

1) Talk with your veterinarian about dental disease in your pet. 2) Brush your pet’s teeth regularly. You can buy flavored, animal formulated tooth paste that your pets will love at your local pet store. 3) Provide lots of hard chew toys or dental treats. Much of the soft plaque can be removed with these chew toys. 4) When your veterinarian recommends having your pet’s teeth cleaned, make it a priority. Your veterinarian is trying to provide you and your pet with more happy years together so take their advice. It will make huge difference in your pet’s life. If you need help with your pets bad breath schedule an examination with one of our doctors today.

What you can do to prevent dental disease in your pets?

For more information, call 770-832-2475 or 770-834-1000 or visit www.carrollcountyah.com

Carroll County

Animal Hospital Sometimes your pet’s health care can’t be scheduled Office Hours: Mon. - Sun. 8am - Midnight Regular Office Hours: Mon. - Sun. 8am - 6pm

NOW SERVING YOU FROM TWO LOCATIONS

(770) 832-2475

635 Columbia Dr. 1155 Stripling Chapel Rd. Carrollton, Ga. 30117 Carrollton, Ga. 30116 #OLUMBIA$Rs#ARROLLTON 'A (770) 832-2475 Across from Sony(770) Music834-1000


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West Georgia businesses answer consumer questions

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What every West Georgian should know about... Avoiding Unnecessary Detours on the Pathway of Grief: The Benefits of a Final Resting Place for Your Loved One Have you or your family ever talked about “what if” something happens to my loved one? Q) Final Resting Place? Are my options only Burial or Cremation? A) Have the choices of Burial or Cremation been hard to think about or even choose? How can any part of something we don’t want to do be simple? Often when a loved one passes away, the surviving family members are faced with deciding on hard choices, while having a broken heart. In many cases today, the choice selection of disposition involves either burial or cremation.

Scott McBrayer Ellen Wynn McBrayer Jones-Wynn Funeral Home & Crematory and Meadowbrook Memory Gardens As always, we remain “A Family Serving Families®....Since 1950”

Qualifications

Scott & Ellen McBrayer are both licensed funeral directors and embalmers. Jones-Wynn Funeral Homes & Crematory has served our community since 1950. We keep our funeral home & crematory synonymous with its name & reputation of serving & caring for families. We are three generations carrying on one tradition. We offer Peace of Mind with the highest quality of service and affordable options. Our funeral home family is always available to help you clarify or answer questions you might need help with.

Q) Did you know that choosing a final resting place is considered to provide the healthiest and most beneficial results, no matter who is dealing with the loss of their loved ones? Q) What if I choose Cremation? Did you know that you can have a burial even with a Cremation? A) Here are a few things to consider when cremation is the preferred choice. As with almost anything in life that involves multiple family members and highly charged emotional situations, there might be a certain amount of disagreement that families must work through to continue down the pathway of healthy grieving. Let’s consider some of these challenges.

In one scenario, we see the family who has vastly different opinions of what should happen to the urn and the cremated remains regarding what seems appropriate and dignified. Some members feel strongly that the cremated remains should be scattered in a favorite place, or separated into different, equal portions and returned to the family members involved in the decision-making process. Cremation jewelry and glass ornamentation have become popular choices to memorialize the deceased as well. Some families will even bury a significant portion of the cremated remains and retain small keepsake portions according to the family member’s preference. While there are some situations where this particular method is worked out in an amicable fashion, there are also many times when that is simply not the case. Families are left to try and reach an agreement that everyone can “live with” concerning the final destination of the urn. Another conclusion that families reach involves a rotation of the urn among family members. This method is carried out

in an attempt to give everyone an equal opportunity to spend more time caring for the urn and every few months or every year the urn changes hands and a different member cares for and possesses the cremated remains. This decision often draws out the closure process for some family members. Instead of embracing clear, specific steps along the grief journey, the surviving family prolongs the entire process and often will disagree as to when enough time has passed before a final resting place is chosen. When making decisions that surround cremation details, there are several ways to improve the outcome for the survivors. For instance, if the person who passes away has written down his or her requests concerning final wishes, the family has a roadmap and clear directions that will take some of the edges off when it comes to a decision that maintains peace within the family. Another way to approach a final decision with the cremated remains is to wait a couple of weeks after the death of the loved one and then have a family meeting to discuss the rational decision of what is best to do with the urn. The benefit of this method is primarily the idea that the overall emotions of the situation are more under control a couple of weeks after the death, making the discussion more practical and rational, instead of emotional and overly sensitive.

Perhaps the most beneficial overall path for the entire family is to select a final resting place for their deceased loved one. Many options are available that provide healthy steps along the pathway of grief. Some examples of a final resting place include a columbarium that has individual spaces, or niches, for the urn. These are commonly available with stone front or glass front appearances, each offering its own benefits. Many families choose inurnment, or the burying of the urn in a grave space. This provides the most traditional and conventional method of memorialization with an upright or flat headstone, depending on the cemetery guidelines and family preferences. An additional option that is gaining popularity is the use of a memorial bench, grave marker, or rock that actually holds the cremated remains in an inner compartment, serving as the permanent urn. As you can see, there are many decisions to be made when it comes to cremated remains and their final destination. Positive, effective communication seems to be a vital part of the puzzle when multiple family members are left with the decision of caring for the cremated remains of their loved one. One particular choice that seems to meet most of the family’s needs, all the while keeping the peace between its members, is the idea of some form of permanent memorialization. Each family will ultimately journey down their own pathway of grief, handling issues and circumstances in their own unique way.


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Greg Towler, Pastor Crossroads Church Pastor Greg has a Doctor of Ministry degree from Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and has been the Lead Pastor of Crossroads Church in Douglasville, GA for over 15 years.

What every West Georgian should know about...

HOW TO DISCOVER THE POWER OF MY WORDS

Our lives are made of a series of choices. The choices we make will always determine the direction of our lives, whether they are good or bad. If we want our lives to be better, then we need to find a way to make better choices. There is good news for all of us. It’s found in the Bible, and it shows us how best choices can be made. ❑ How do I learn to listen more? We live in a world where people love to talk. Studies suggest that the average American adult speaks approximately 16,000 words per day. Multiply that by a lifespan of 70 years, for a total of nearly 409 million words. This shows us how our use of words is extremely important. What’s more important, is when we choose not to use them at all. Th ink of it this way: God gave us one mouth and two ears, which means we should listen twice as much as we talk. The book of James says, “Be quick to hear and slow to speak”. Th ink about how many of our confl icts would dissolve or never even materialize if we could do this more. ❑ How do I learn to speak the truth? Did you know that the average person tells about thirteen lies per week? Honesty is crucial to human relations. Every social activity, every human experience requiring people to act in unity, is impeded when people are not honest with one another. The honesty that I am talking about is more than just not telling a lie, it is about speaking the truth. John Newton once said, “Our natural temptation is to say what we should not say, or to not say what we should say. One is cruel arrogance, the other cruel cowardice, and neither is love.” The Bible reminds us that love is patient, kind, humble, selfless, and not-easily provoked (1 Corinthians

13:4-7). Th is should be the approach we use when we are faced with speaking the truth. ❑ How do I learn to build others up? Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words can never hurt me! Never has a greater myth been perpetuated about the nature of our language. Words can absolutely hurt you or build you up. When encouragement is absent from our lives we can feel unloved, unimportant, and forgotten. Encouragement isn’t focused on complementing someone’s haircut or telling him or her how good their homemade salsa tastes. Instead it is shared with the hopes that it will lift someone’s heart. Every time we engage in a conversation, whether it’s face-to-face, text message, or social media, we have a great opportunity. We can choose words that will build someone up or tear someone down. Paul writes in the book of Ephesians, “Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you (Ephesians 4:32).” Whether we choose to listen or choose to speak, remember that your words have power. STICKS AND STONES: A New Message Series Coming this February 2017 - We have the power to change lives by the words we use. Our words can build someone up or tear them down. They can empower and encourage. Words have the ability to shape the destiny of our kids, family, career and even our future. Join us at Crossroads Church as we discover how we can change the world, or at least someone’s world, by something as simple as the words we use.


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ADVANCING

YOUR JOURNEY

Don’t let pain keep you from the world. You’ve always wanted to travel, but your back pain is keeping you home. Whether it’s a waterfall in the Smoky Mountains or the ancient ruins of Machu Picchu, you’re ready to see more. The solution to your back pain is probably closer than you realize. At Tanner, our renowned spine specialists offer a range of minimally invasive and non-surgical solutions to help you experience more. Find a spine specialist on staff at the Tanner Ortho and Spine Center by calling 770.214.CARE. Learn more online at TannerOrtho.org. .

WGL March-April 2017  

West Georgia's most popular living and lifestyle magazine.

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