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Archive for August, 2015

Speaking Engagement at The SSW National Conference

Posted on: August 14th, 2015 by Angela Ardolino No Comments

Suncoast Credit Union 8th annual Back To School Fair from Angela Ardolino on Vimeo.

Suncoast Credit Union 8th Annual Back to School Fair at WestShore Plaza! Over eight thousand Bay Area families, from parents and teens all the way to tots arrived early to be one of the first 500 kids to receive a backpack full of goodies from Suncoast Credit Union.

From there, event guests got all of the best information to start the school year right from over 70 vendors. Fruttare®, a delicious line of frozen fruit bars, hosted the Fruttare Fruit Farm. Tampa Bay Parenting Magazine Founder and Editorial Director Angela Ardolino partnered with Fruttare and demoed how to make Fruity Iconic Tampa Minarets. St. Joseph’s Children’s Hospital held their Safety Stop where families had the opportunity to purchase low cost safety products and learn how to keep the whole family healthy amid the back to school germs.

Parents learned about all of the best technology to help the kids succeed this school year, and techie teens and tweens and even toddlers enjoyed learning about and playing with robots with America’s largest 4G LTE network, Verizon Wireless. The excitement revved up at the Mix 100.7 nonstop entertainment stage. Families got to rock out with the music from School of Rock, learned how to reduce injuries from Florida Orthopedic Institute, saw mad scientists perform experiments from MOSI, watched the students of the Patel Conservatory perform, and more.

Families also got to enjoy the world class dining options and stores at WestShore Plaza. Best of all, they got to shop all day tax free as part of Florida’s back to school sales tax holiday.

This year’s event would not have been possible without the Event Presenting Sponsor,Suncoast Credit Union. As a supporter of many different initiatives, outreach programs and charitable organizations, Suncoast Credit Union prides itself on being an active and responsible member of the Tampa Bay community.

Angela Ardolino Fruttare Fruit Farm

Tampa-Parenting-Mag-1

Presenting Partners for the Suncoast Credit Union 8th Annual Back to School Fair were Tampa Bay ParentingWestshore PlazaFruttare, the Florida Orthopedic Institute and the America’s largest and most reliable 4G LTE network, Verizon Wireless.

For additional information, video and media photos, visit http://www.BackToSchoolFair.com

SUNCOAST CREDIT UNION 8TH ANNUAL BACK TO SCHOOL FAIR A HUGE SUCCESS!

Posted on: August 14th, 2015 by Angela Ardolino No Comments

Suncoast Credit Union 8th annual Back To School Fair from Angela Ardolino onVimeo.

Suncoast Credit Union 8th Annual Back to School Fair at WestShore Plaza! Over eight thousand Bay Area families, from parents and teens all the way to tots arrived early to be one of the first 500 kids to receive a backpack full of goodies from Suncoast Credit Union.

From there, event guests got all of the best information to start the school year right from over 70 vendors. Fruttare®, a delicious line of frozen fruit bars, hosted the Fruttare Fruit Farm. Tampa Bay Parenting Magazine Founder and Editorial Director Angela Ardolino partnered with Fruttare and demoed how to make Fruity Iconic Tampa Minarets. St. Joseph’s Children’s Hospital held their Safety Stop where families had the opportunity to purchase low cost safety products and learn how to keep the whole family healthy amid the back to school germs.

Parents learned about all of the best technology to help the kids succeed this school year, and techie teens and tweens and even toddlers enjoyed learning about and playing with robots with America’s largest 4G LTE network, Verizon Wireless. The excitement revved up at the Mix 100.7 nonstop entertainment stage. Families got to rock out with the music from School of Rock, learned how to reduce injuries from Florida Orthopedic Institute, saw mad scientists perform experiments from MOSI, watched the students of the Patel Conservatory perform, and more.

Families also got to enjoy the world class dining options and stores at WestShore Plaza. Best of all, they got to shop all day tax free as part of Florida’s back to school sales tax holiday.

This year’s event would not have been possible without the Event Presenting Sponsor,Suncoast Credit Union. As a supporter of many different initiatives, outreach programs and charitable organizations, Suncoast Credit Union prides itself on being an active and responsible member of the Tampa Bay community.

Presenting Partners for the Suncoast Credit Union 8th Annual Back to School Fair were Tampa Bay ParentingWestshore PlazaFruttare, the Florida Orthopedic Institute and the America’s largest and most reliable 4G LTE network, Verizon Wireless.

For additional information, video and media photos, visithttp://www.BackToSchoolFair.com.

FUN WITH FRUIT KABOBS AND FRUTTARE

Posted on: August 12th, 2015 by Angela Ardolino No Comments

Back-to-school shopping is finally underway, and as you consider your family’s lunch boxes it is a great time to start thinking about how you will fill them. Will you include gummy bears and quick fixes in their lunches? Or will you strive to keep the family excited about having fun with fruit?

Getting the whole family to enjoy fruit can be as simple as including tasty fruit in their lunch boxes — and don’t forget your own too!

I’ve partnered with Fruttare®, a delicious line of frozen fruit bars, to bring fun with fruit to your whole family. Not only are Fruttare® Fruit Bars delicious and made with real fruit you can taste, the brand is also working towards sustainably farming every piece of fruit that goes into a Fruttare Fruit Bar by year’s end. My favorite flavor is pineapple and I love that everyone in the family can enjoy their favorite flavors like coconut, strawberry, and mango, just to name a few.

One of the great ways that we have been able to have fun with fruit was when the Fruttare Fruit Farm came to Tampa this summer. We made our final stop at The Suncoast Credit Union 8th Annual Back to School Fair. This gave me the chance to share my favorite flavors of the delicious Fruttare Fruit Bars with families from all over the Bay Area. We also made the famous University of Tampa Minarets with real fruit, which are recognizable in the Tampa skyline. This fun and simple activity is a party favorite, and everyone who made it was proud of their tasty and adorable treat.

Families also were able to get their own strawberry plant to take home at the Fruttare Fruit Farm, as a way to grow their own delicious fruit. I loved seeing families come learn about how to plant their strawberry seeds and of course enjoy a Fruttare Fruit Bar!

Having fun with fruit is just one of the easy ways to encourage your whole family to eat more of it. An easy way to do this, is allowing your children to come shopping with you and pick out a new fruit to try. This will encourage them to try new fruits. They are also far more likely to eat it if they chose it themselves. Take those same fruits and mix them into a smoothie, or let your family get creative with it so that they can enjoy their creation.

After they’ve selected their favorite fruits, a great way to get them to enjoy it is to make fruit kabobs. They make an easy snack to include in a lunch box and, most importantly, taste yummy!

Fun with Fruit Kababos

Letting your kids use their unique personalities to create something crafty and fun can be a great opportunity to let them shine! And, when you let them pick which fruits they like, their tastes might be as different as their unique selves. Making kabobs is a great way to let everyone use the fruits they like, while allowing the kids to showcase their colorful personality and style.

Here is what you will need:

  • Kabob sticks
  • Assorted fruits (strawberries, mangoes, bananas, cherries, and pineapples are great for this)
  • Small cookie cutters in varying shapes

Instructions:

  • Layout the fruit your family selected, and use the cookie cutters to create a variety of shapes. Note: Cookie cutter won’t work on citrus fruits
  • Stack the fruit onto the kabob stick

When you want to let your kids show their unique personalities, creating something crafty and fun can often be a great time to let them shine. And, when you let your kids pick which fruit they like, their tastes might be as different as their unique selves. Making kabobs is a great way to let everyone get something they like, and to let you see the colorful attitudes of each of your kids.

For this craft, you will need (2 servings):

About two cups of Assorted fruits (strawberries, mangoes, bananas, cherries, and pineapples are great for this).

All you will need to do is have your kids cut their favorite fruits into fun shapes, like hearts or stars, using cookie cutters or a Pop Chef which cuts fruit into fun shapes.

Have your kids stack and layer their favorite fruits onto the kabob stick, and you are done! They can save their kabobs for lunches during the school year, or for treats at home.

I am Angela Ardolino writing on behalf of Fruttare Fruit Bars.

FUN WITH FRUIT AND FRUTTARE COMES TO BACK TO SCHOOL FAIR!

Posted on: August 7th, 2015 by Angela Ardolino No Comments

As summer winds down, the countdown for going back to school begins. To get ready for back to school, the Suncoast Credit Union 8th Annual Back to School Fairis taking over WestShore Plaza on August 8. The day will start off bright and early at 10 a.m. and will have live entertainment, hands on activities, workshops, speaker sessions, a scavenger hunt and so much more. In addition, local exhibitors will be providing all sorts of back to school related information with everything from health & wellness and safety to private and public schools, resources, childcare, after school programs, school supplies, tutors, children’s retailers, finances and much more!

I’ve partnered with Fruttare, a delicious line of frozen fruit bars, to bring the Fruttare Fruit Farm to the Suncoast Credit Union 8th Annual Back-to-School Fair. I’ll be demoing fun fruit activities for families there from 11am – 1pm. Stop by to learn how to make Fruity Iconic Tampa Minarets!

One of the great things about going back to school is getting back on track when it comes to eating more fruit. Packing more fruit into your family’s lunches can be one way to get them to eat more fruit—but wouldn’t it be better to get them excited about fruit?

One of the best ways to get the whole family to have fun with fruit, is to involve them in grocery shopping. Have them help you make a shopping list with their favorite fruits. Take them to the market and encourage every family member to choose a fruit they want to try—whether it is something they already love like mangoes or trying something new like a coconut, let everyone pick something. You can also let them get involved in choosing their favorite Fruttare Fruit Bars. My favorite is pineapple, and my family loves the variety of flavors available, so we like to try a new flavor each time we shop.

Once you have the fruit and the Fruttare Fruit Bars, the family will have fun making the Fruity Fruttare® Bowl!

Fruity Fruttare® Bowl

Serves 2

Create a special treat that everyone will love to make and eat!

Here is what you need:

  • 1 Strawberry Fruit and Juice Fruttare® Fruit Bar

  • ½  cup chopped fresh strawberries

  • ½ cup low fat granola

  • ½  cup plain low fat Greek yogurt

  • 3 tablespoons sweetened shredded coconut

 

Instructions:

  • Remove the stick from the Fruit Bar by poking it out of the wrapper and pulling it out.

  • Once the stick is removed, put the bar in the wrapper back in the freezer for a few minutes.

  • After the bar has chilled, unwrap it and lay it on a cutting board and cut it into cubes or shapes using a cookie cutter.

  • Place the Fruttare® cubes or shapes in a bowl, add the strawberries and granola and gently stir.

  • Top with yogurt and coconut.

Nutritional Information 1 serving:

Calories 220, Calories from Fat 45, Total Fat 5 g, Saturated Fat 3 g, Trans Fat 0 g, Cholesterol  5 mg, Sodium 110 mg, Total Carbs 37 g, Dietary Fiber 3 g, Sugars 20 g, Protein 8 g, Vitamin A  8 %, Vitamin C 60 %, Calcium 8 %, Iron 6 %

Don’t forget to come to the Suncoast Credit Union 8th Annual Back to School Fair on August 8 from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. at WestShore Plaza in Tampa! We will be having more fun with fruit at the Fruttare Fruit Farm and there will be something for the whole family!

This post was written on behalf of Fruttare Fruit Bars.

FUN WITH FANTASTIC FRUIT AND FRUTTARE

Posted on: August 4th, 2015 by Angela Ardolino No Comments

Family vacations are winding down and summer is finally coming to a close. While the days are still long and the afternoons still have plenty of room for fun, spending time together as a family and having fun are still on the forefront of our minds.

One of the ways that I like to spend summer afternoons with my family is by creating interesting and unique crafts using fruit. Letting my family  use their imagination to create masterpieces made out of fruit not only gets them excited to enjoy the actual fruit, but it also gets them to slow down and enjoy spending time together.

I’ve partnered with Fruttare, a delicious line of frozen fruit bars, to bring the Fruttare Fruit Farm to the Suncoast Credit Union 8th Annual Back-to-School Fair on Saturday, August 8, where I’ll be demoing fun fruit activities for families from 11 a.m. – 1 p.m.  So stop by to learn how to make Fruity Iconic Tampa Minarets and get free Fruttare samples.  Not only are Fruttare Fruit Bars delicious and made with real fruit you can taste, the brand is also working towards sustainably farming every piece of fruit that goes into a Fruttare® fruit bar by year’s end.

If you are looking to practice your minaret building skills before you come out to the Fruttare Fruit Farm at the Suncoast Credit Union 8th Annual Back to School fair, check out this simple step by step how-to guide.

Fruit Minaret

How to make the famous Tampa Minarets

If you have ever visited Tampa, chances are you have seen the iconic minarets atop the former Florida Hotel (currently the University of Tampa’s Plant Hall). These Moorish feats of architecture can be seen on the Tampa skyline and are often part of historical tours. But you don’t have to drive all the way into the city to see them. Perfect for a fun and tasty craft at a party, you can make your own mini-minarets.

This craft is a perfect family-friendly activity.

Here is what you need:

  • 5 (2-inch square) graham cracker pieces
  • 1 cup low-fat whipped topping
  • 1 large strawberry
  • 1 small strawberry
  • 1 slice banana
  • Toothpicks

Instructions:

  • Hold 2 pieces of graham cracker up at a 90° angle, and using the whipped topping, fill the space between the 2 crackers. Add another graham cracker as the third wall, which will stick to the whipped topping used in the center of the first 2 walls. The fourth graham cracker will be the forth wall and should also stick to the whipped topping.  (But if needed you can add a dollop more).
  • Break the last graham cracker piece in half and put it on top as a roof. The structure should resemble a gingerbread house with a flat roof.
  • Cut the top off of the strawberries. Poke a toothpick through the center of the large strawberry, coming up through the center of the tip of the strawberry. Add the smaller strawberry to the top of the toothpick so the flat sides do not touch.
  • Use a toothpick to carve a moon shape into the banana slice. Once you have the moon shape, poke the toothpick through the center of the moon and stick the other end into the top of the smaller strawberry, leaving some of the toothpick exposed.
  • Set your strawberry and moon toothpick tower on top of the graham cracker house.

Tip: If the house is wobbly, add more whipped cream or use a banana through the center of the graham cracker house to make it sturdier.

Nutritional Information 1 serving:          

Calories 160 , Calories from Fat 60, Total Fat 7 g, Saturated Fat 4.5 g, Trans Fat 0 g, Cholesterol 0 mg,  Sodium  110 mg, Total Carbs 24 g, Dietary Fiber 1 g, Sugars 15 g, Protein 2  g, Vitamin A 0 %, Vitamin C 4 %, Calcium  4 %, Iron 4 %

These mini-minarets are as tasty as they are fun to make, and you can even make it a contest at your next family gathering. Whoever can make their minaret the fastest wins!

This post was written on behalf of Fruttare Fruit Bars.

FAMILY FUN WITH FRUIT AND FRUTTARE

Posted on: August 4th, 2015 by Angela Ardolino No Comments

If you ask your family if they like fruit, chances are they will say yes. They might say “I love watermelon Jolly Ranchers” or “Grape lollipops are my favorite”—but when you get right down to it, families tend to miss out on products made with real fruit.

Fruttare Fruit Farm Strawberry Patch

Getting your family to  eat more fruit can seem like an impossible task, so I have partnered with Fruttare Fruit Bars to share tips and fun family-friendly activities with fruit.  I love that Fruttare Fruit Bars are made with real fruit that you can taste, like strawberries, bananas, pineapples, coconuts, black cherries, among other delicious fruits. My favorite Fruttare Fruit Bar is pineapple, and I love that it features delicious, ripe pineapples. Best of all, Fruttare Fruit Bars are only 60 – 140 calories (depending on the flavor).

Angela And Fruttare Team

The Fruttare Fruit Farm is one of the great ways that we are able to introduce fun, family-friendly, fruit-centric activities. A few weeks ago at The Shops at Wiregrass, I got to spend the afternoon teaching families how to make Winter the Banana dolphin—something that is fun for the whole family!

Kids Making Bars

At the Fruttare Fruit Farm, we gave families a chance to see for themselves just why Fruttare Fruit Bars are such a great way to cool off in the famous Florida heat. Families participated in a strawberry bean bag toss and got to visit a miniature strawberry patch. They also planted their own strawberry plants and even got Fruttare coloring pages.

Angela and Parents

I had the chance to talk to local bloggers and moms from around the Bay Area andshare some simple tips and fun fruit-centric activities. Carlee Colonneso, blogger from Frugal and Fun Mom (@frugalandfunmom, @athomemoma) brought her kids to the Fruttare Fruit Farm and fell in love with the activity. She plans to make creating banana dolphins a fun new tradition with her family, too!

Fruttare Fruit Farm

By the end of the day, families not only got to spend the afternoon eating delicious Fruttare Fruit Bars with me and the rest of the Fruttare Fruit Farm team, but they were also able to have fun spending time together and creating adorable banana dolphins —  a memory they won’t soon forget.

banana dolphin

In case you weren’t able to make it out to the Fruttare Fruit Farm, here are the instructions to create yummy banana dolphins with your family:

Here is what you need for one serving:

1 banana
2 blueberries
2 strawberries
A knife and four toothpicks

Start by cutting the banana in half so that each side stands up on cut side down. Use the part with the stem to craft the dolphin’s nose and mouth. Cut the stem in half– this is where you will want to be very careful. Avoid cutting directly in the middle of the stem, instead cut from one side and go inward.

Progress Banana Dolphin

Next, attach two of the blueberries as eyes with toothpicks. Remove the stem of the strawberries and cut one of the strawberries in half and attach it to the tail of dolphin with toothpicks.  Cut some of the strawberries into smaller pieces. Put a small piece of the strawberry into the wedged open “mouth” of the dolphin that you created by cutting the stem.

The dolphin should be able to stand up on its own on the flat bottom you cut in step one. You have a yummy treat that was almost as fun to make as it is to eat.

Be sure to come to the Suncoast Credit Union 8th Annual Back to School Fair and visit the Fruttare Fruit Farm for even more fun with fruit!

I am Angela Ardolino writing on behalf of Fruttare Fruit Bars.

Dr. Kanika Tomalin

Posted on: August 1st, 2015 by Angela Ardolino No Comments

K4-WEB (1)

Deputy Mayor Dr. Kanika Tomalin serves the city of St. Petersburg, working in partnership with Mayor Rick Kriseman to strategically advance the city toward its vision of standing as a city of opportunity that honors its past while pursuing the future.

As the fifth generation of her family to call St. Petersburg home, advancing the city is a mission close to her heart. Her extended family includes more than 200 relatives in St. Petersburg. “I love living in the Sunshine City with [husband] Terry and my children Kai and Nia.”

Professionally, Tomalin has served in a variety of leadership roles with healthcare organizations, most recently for Health Management Associates as the regional vice president of public affairs for theBayfront Health Network. She also has held various marketing and communications positions with theTampa Bay Times and Bayfront Health System. She also has worked as a journalist for the Tampa Bay Times, the Palm Beach Post, WTXL-TV in Tallahassee, WAVE-TV in Louisville, Kentucky, and WRXB radio in St. Petersburg.

What do you think is the secret to your family’s success?

It’s no secret. Mutual respect and celebration of each other and the purpose we bring to the world and each others’ lives keeps my family, connected, focused and moving forward in ways that serve not only our individual interests, but also amplify our shared goals.

What is your biggest fear?

Honestly, I don’t subscribe to too many fears. This is mainly because I believe that faith and fear cannot coexist. I also believe that there is purpose in everything that transpires, and, armed with this certainty, I meet the world with expectation of opportunity and possibility as opposed to fear and trepidation about those things I cannot control. That said, I do have concerns, but I am comforted by our ability to do something about most of them. My chief concern is that I leave a world for future generations that is better than the one we inherited.

We’re blessed to live in a country and community of abundance and opportunity, but those blessings come at a cost of service and commitment from each of us. The work we do today determines reality for souls yet born. I am honored to play such a significant role in this chapter of St. Petersburg’s history.

The example I am working to set for my children is one of servant leadership. I am proud of the things we, as a community, can accomplish together while always recognizing that there is more to be done.

What advice would you give to other women?

Find your voice and follow your bliss. This advice is not gender specific but a necessary endeavor we all must master to live our best lives. We will only truly experience our best lives if we are living fully with honor and recognition in the purpose for which we first drew breath.

What is your proudest moment?

One of my proudest moments was at the mayor’s swearing-in last January. The mayor and I, standing on the steps of City Hall, drafting the first lines of the city’s next chapter, was a very special moment. I knew it was a first step in a long journey to support the mayor’s honorable effort to move this city I love forward, building a city of opportunity where the sun shines on all who come to live, work and play.

What is your biggest achievement?

My biggest achievement, without a doubt, is raising two healthy, happy, compassionate children who are values-driven and clear on their obligation to make the world a better place.

What makes you happy?

I am most often happy because this is a wonderful life filled with amazing possibilities.

As happiness relates to work, I love collaborating with committed community partners to achieve successful outcomes, even when processes take a little longer than is ideal. We work hard every day to identify the right answer that will serve the most people for the longest time. That is not always the expedient or easy answer, but it is always what we believe to be right. We work at identifying great partners to help us get there – government rarely succeeds alone.

And when we nail it, people’s lives are made better. There’s no greater reward.

How do you relax and take time for yourself?

This is always a challenge. With so many demands for my time and attention, it’s sometimes hard to make space and time to care for myself. Fortunately, I have a strong support system at home and work. My relaxation never involves anything extravagant. It usually involves a great book, lovely music and an indulgent glass of boss wine.

What kind of message would you like to give women in the area or in this community?

St. Petersburg is truly a city of opportunity for all. The diverse faces – many of them women – that you see in City Hall are a mere reflection of St. Petersburg itself.

From pioneers who paved the way for our world-class arts community to local entrepreneurs, sports and entertainment leaders and public servants, women are leading the way for advancement in our city. It is important to note that the women who are making a difference every day in our community are not just the select few leaders we read about in magazines like this. They are our mothers, sisters, wives and daughters who transform the world, one impactful act at a time. These women are the integral thread that holds together the fabric of our society.

What else would you like to share with our readers? About being a mom, about your work?

My life is fortunate and blessed. I have a wonderful husband, amazing children and I am surrounded by family and friends who delight in helping each other create our best lives. This chapter of service to the city is a privileged opportunity for me to demonstrate my appreciation and gratitude to all things and people that make this such an awesome community.

How do you enjoy or draw information from the magazine?

I enjoy both the print and online editions of the magazine. It’s always great to read and get insights on local parents doing great things and extraordinary children who are already making a difference.

What is your favorite thing to do with your kids in the Tampa Bay area?

To spend time in the Sunshine City, one of the best cities in America! We say it a lot, but it is more than just rhetoric. St. Petersburg is a city on the rise. There are too many things to do to list them all. Visit www.StPete.org to find upcoming events.

My husband Terry is the outdoors and fitness editor at the Tampa Bay Times. With more than a quarter century of adventure under his belt, he keeps our family’s spirits in high gear and our bodies in motion. You may find The Tomalins enjoying the natural splendor of our 150 parks, at one of the 17 city recreation facilities or simply out and about in the city.

Extraordinary Woman: Diane McKee

Posted on: August 1st, 2015 by Angela Ardolino No Comments

Parenting with Angela 2015 August Extraordinary Woman Diane McKee

When she was growing up in Ohio, an ice cream truck came by every afternoon in Diane McKee’s neighborhood, and her grandmother told her that if she filled a bucket full of dandelion weeds from her yard, she would give her the ten cents she needed to buy an ice cream. In a hurry for that ice cream, McKee fluffed up the dandelions. But her grandmother stomped her foot in the bucket, and reminded the children that the bucket needed to be full.

“If she was paying us for our work, she expected our best efforts,” says McKee, who has just been named 2016 Florida Teacher of the Year. “Although I was only nine at the time, I still remember that lesson and my work ethic has reflected what she would expect from me still today.”

It’s a lesson McKee, 58, had ample opportunity to put into practice when she pursued her bachelor’s degree in Middle Grades Education from Kennesaw State University while caring for her two small children, then 2 and 5. It wasn’t easy getting up at 4 a.m. to study at the kitchen table before waking her kids up for breakfast, and missing trick or treating to study for an exam, but her work ethic and the unconditional support of her family pulled her through. “After eight years, I graduated summa cum laude, and my husband and children—then ten and thirteen—shared in the celebration,” says McKee.

Her husband’s job transfer led the family to Tampa, where McKee began to teach at Williams Middle Magnet School, an authorized IB Middle Years Programme, in an environment that she says helped her grow personally and professionally. Yet she says she couldn’t help asking, “Why me?” when she won her Teacher of the Year Award. However, a meeting with another teacher inspired her.

“She had retired from the Girl Scouts before starting her teaching career,” says McKee. “Somebody actually told her that nobody would be interested in her as a teacher at her age, but she was not going to let her dream pass by and, at 68, she’s teaching eighth grade language arts with an energy and passion that is admired by all those who are lucky enough to be around her. She led me to change my mantra to “Why not me?” and I will carry her strength and courage with me as I move forward in representing the state next year. If we can do it, so can you. Identify your dream, your passion, and go after it.”

What do you think is the secret to your family’s success?
The key in my family lies in our ability to laugh. Throughout the years, struggles and difficulties have crossed our paths, but we always found a way to be silly and enjoy laughing together.

What is your biggest fear?
My biggest fear is the loss of health. After witnessing health issues wreak havoc on families around me, I fear not having the physical or mental capacity to enjoy life. The pain and suffering of loved ones who have lost their mental sharpness or their physical strength to participate in activities that were always so important drives the message home that as I age, the same will happen to me.

What advice would you give to other women?
The one piece of advice that I would pass on to other women would be to know that it is never too late to chase your dreams. Graduating from college at 40, my teaching career started late, but the rewards have been tremendous! It would have been easy to stay at home and never start that first class, but growing and developing were too important. As I reflect on all the students that have touched my life and others who have sent sweet notes referencing my impact on them, I realize how much I would have missed in life if I had not become a teacher. The ability to impact students continues to drive me forward.

What is your proudest moment?
It doesn’t matter whether the children are my own or those I teach, what matters to me is that children find their strength, their courage, and their voice. There is no greater reward in life than witnessing a child’s excitement and smiles as they experience confidence in expressing themselves. Watching children discover their confidence is like magic and I have never felt more pride than I felt when watching these children blossom.

What is your biggest achievement?
With a weak background in math, I bought a teacher’s edition and studied and taught myself math to prepare myself for the rigors of college. After receiving a 52 on my first statistics test, I cried all the way home. However, working hard and not giving up provided me the opportunity to grow and learn that with hard work, I could accomplish anything. I earned an A in that course. This success was a catalyst for my other classes. Since I had been out of school for many years, my biggest achievement was managing to graduate summa cum laude from Kennesaw State University after eight long years while raising two children and running a household.

What makes you happy?
I am happy when I have all of my family together for holidays as we cook meals together and play games. The stresses of work are put aside as we just enjoy one another’s company. We curl up on sofa to watch movies, play board games, or sometimes just sprawl out on the sofa to share stories about our lives into the wee hours of the morning.

How do you relax and take time for yourself?
Yoga relieves my stress, relaxes my muscles, and builds strength in the core. I also ride my bike, float on a raft while reading a good novel, have dinner with close friends or watch movies.

What kind of message would you like to give women in the community?
Stay involved. The community has so many ways to give back so find the one area that matters most to you and give some of your time, energy or money. The biggest reward is always the one that focuses on somebody else benefiting. As a teacher, I watch students who need mentors and research demonstrates the improved graduation rates of students that have worked with a mentor. Every pair of hands helps and you are needed.

What else would you like to share?
Raising children is difficult. Teaching is difficult. Children do not come with an operator’s manual and the parenting books definitely do not agree on best practice. The hardest part is to forgive yourself for the mistakes you make along the way and remember that what matters the most is giving them your time and giving them your love. Above all else, talk to your children. Keeping the door for communication open provides a forum to work through whatever may come your way.