Charity Logo

Charity Logo

Charity of the Month


In December I am riding for Heifer International. Founded in 1944, Heifer International works with communities around the world to end hunger and poverty and to care for the Earth. Its approach is more than a handout. Heifer provides animals (e.g., heifers, goats, water buffalos, chickens, rabbits, fish, and bees) and training to impoverished people in over 30 countries. The animals can give milk, meat, or eggs; provide draft power; or form the basis of a small business. Communities make their own decisions about what crops, animals, and market strategies make sense for their everyday conditions and experiences.

Heifer International is based on 12 Cornerstones, such as Sustainability; Genuine Need and Justice; and Gender and Family Focus. Perhaps the best known Cornerstone is Passing on the Gift, in which Heifer recipient families pass on the offspring of their animals to others in need. In this way, whole communities can raise their standard of living.

A donation to Heifer International also can make a wonderful alternative holiday gift. Instead of yet another sweater for Grandma that she really doesn’t need, why not donate a Heifer animal or a share of an animal in her honor? Does your child really need so many new toys? Instead of five new toys, give him/her three new toys and a Heifer flock of chicks. Heifer has honor cards to let your loved ones know of your gift on their behalf.

I have set up a Team Heifer page to support Heifer International through A Year of Centuries. My goal is to raise $500. Please make your donation through If you would like more information about Heifer’s work, please visit Whether you give to honor a loved one or make a regular donation, thank you for taking steps to transform the world for the better.

Sunday, March 31, 2013


He is risen!  He is risen, indeed!  Today millions of us around the world celebrate Jesus’s resurrection.  Resurrection has been on my mind a lot in the last year.

Just what is resurrection?  It sounds so fantastical, even alien for us 21st century people.  But what I’ve come to understand is that resurrection isn't just something that happened to Jesus 2000 years ago.  God resurrects, brings things back to life, here and now.  The way that God created the human body to heal itself is truly miraculous and is a type of resurrection.  I never thought I would look, feel, and function as well as I do now after my crash.  As the Apostles’ Creed puts it, “I believe in…the resurrection of the body.”  Resurrection is not just for the hereafter; it’s part of the exhibition of the kingdom of God in this life.

When I’m under extreme stress, I get insomnia.  I don’t have difficulty falling asleep, but I awake in the middle of the night and can’t go back to sleep as my mind races, turning the problem over and over.  This happened to me when I was unemployed for about six months in 2009.  It happened again last year about two months after my crash, when I was waiting for my jaw to heal before I had surgery in July.  Every night for about two weeks, I woke up at 4:00 A.M. and couldn’t go back to sleep.  It didn’t take long before I was exhausted both day and night, but I still woke up every night like clockwork.  I tried techniques that have helped me with milder cases of insomnia: counting backwards by threes from 300 (really!) or slowly working my way up from my toes, imagining each part of my body being totally relaxed.  During my post-crash insomnia, I often got up to read, but that didn’t work either.  The one thing that brought me comfort, if not sleep, was prayer.

God and I had a lot of conversations during those wee hours.  One night I was feeling particularly grateful for the healing that I knew was occurring, however slow it may have seemed.  Somehow that helped me realize, more than I ever had before, that just as surely as God heals our bodies, he also forgives our sins, healing our souls.  Maybe that's why so many times Jesus forgave people's sins at the same time he healed their physical afflictions.  Psalm 103 ties all this together beautifully: "Praise the Lord, my soul, and forget not all his benefits - who forgives all your sins and heals all your diseases, who redeems your life from the pit and crowns you with love and compassion, who satisfies your desires with good things so that your youth is renewed like the eagle's."

Naturally, I wish that I hadn’t crashed, and I wish that I didn’t have the scars I’m left with.  Even so, God has brought new life to me and, I hope, others through A Year of Centuries.  This helps me understand a little more about what Jesus faced in the last days of his life.  Obviously, he didn’t want to suffer and die (remember his prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane before he was arrested), and I’ll bet he would have preferred not to have the scars from his crucifixion.  Most of all, I’m sure he wished that humankind was not in the sinful, dismal state that it was and is.  But thanks be to God that he has the last word!

My prayer for you is that you know resurrection in your life.  Happy Easter!

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

A Special Gift for Your Easter Basket

Looking for a special gift to put in your child's Easter basket?  Give hope to hungry children with a flock of chicks ($20), a trio of bunnies ($60 or a share for $10), or a little lamb ($120 or a share for $10) to benefit Heifer International.  Your Easter gift to Heifer comes with a bright and cheerful Easter honor card that you can place in your child’s basket. Or send a card to loved ones to let them know about the special gift you’ve made in their name to help struggling families build a better future.  Heifer International is my December featured charity in A Year of Centuries, but Heifer welcomes your donation now or any other time this year.  Here's the link to my Team Heifer page:  Happy Easter!

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

B4H Georgia Follow Up Trip to Namibia

Bicycles for Humanity (B4H) is gearing up to send a shipment of bicycles to Namibia, Africa in May.  This past Sunday they had a successful collection event in Athens, receiving about 15 bicycles! It's not too late to donate bicycles or funds.  Visit or mail a check to

Bicycles for Humanity Georgia
P.O. Box 501381
Atlanta, GA 31150

B4H Georgia sent its first container of bicycles, parts, and tools to Namibia in 2011.  They followed up in 2012 to see how the receiving community was faring.  See the difference that bicycles make:

Monday, March 18, 2013

B4H Bicycle Collection Event Coming This Sunday

Do you have a bicycle you no longer want? Why not donate it to Bicycles for Humanity? The Athens/Atlanta chapter of B4H is having a collection event this Sunday, March 24 from noon to 4:00 P.M. The location is the Chase Park Warehouses, 149 Tracy Street Athens, GA 30601. Your bicycle will go to someone who really needs it in Namibia, Africa.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Third Ride in A Year of Centuries - A Benefit for Bicycles for Humanity

Yesterday I completed a successful and merry century!  (I recently read The Merry Adventures of Robin Hood, which I thoroughly enjoyed, and think that merry is a word that should be used much more often.)  I rode in the St. Patrick’s Century in Dublin, Georgia on behalf of my charity for this month, Bicycles for Humanity.  This was the first time in a while that I’ve done a century as part of an organized ride.  I had signed up for the century option on the Saturday ride of the Bicycle Ride Across Georgia (BRAG) Spring Tune Up last April, but my crash was the weekend before.  I forewent that BRAG Spring Tune Up century and just raced in a time trial instead J

One thing that’s fun about organized rides is seeing the wide variety of bicycles among the riders.  Most people ride regular road bikes, but you might see a recumbent, a tandem, a tandem with a trailer (which might have a child or a dog in it), or even a tandem recumbent.  Yesterday I saw a type of bicycle I had never seen before: an Elliptical bike!  It’s essentially an Elliptical workout machine on wheels:

Together, Yet Alone

Although I was prepared to ride solo yesterday, I still hoped to find a group to ride with.  About five miles into the ride, I saw a group of four guys that looked like they were riding at about my pace.  I took that opportunity to glom onto their paceline, and they welcomed me very congenially.  Although these guys seemed like decent riders, I quickly discovered that they were less experienced than most of my cycling friends and don’t ride with the precision I’m used to.  For example, several times when the front guy was finished pulling, he peeled off to the inside right instead of the outside left.  Also, one of them erroneously referred to the paceline as a “dragline,” which caused me to chuckle to myself.  (When I told Robert about the “dragline,” he pointed out that when our friend Stoney, a super strong rider, is at the front pulling, the rest of us are in a dragline behind him – true!)  Regardless, the main thing is that these guys didn’t ride in a squirrelly manner, and so I was glad for the companionship and group energy efficiency.

Alas, my newfound friends left my life as quickly as they entered.  We stopped at a rest stop around mile 15, where the route options split.  They went on the 55-mile route, and I continued on with the century.  I rode the remainder of my ride by myself.  It would have been nice to have others with me, but I’m happy that I could ride as strongly as I did on my own.  Compared to last month, I felt much better at the end of yesterday’s century.  The difference is that last month I red-lined (went into the anaerobic zone) early in that ride as I tried to keep up with the Peach Peloton, which affected me later in the ride.

When I’m out there solo on a long ride, I can’t help but get a little philosophical.  If I do have a group to ride with and get a draft effect, it’s easier, but I still have to make each pedal stroke on my own, and it’s still up to me to finish my ride.  That’s like when I was recovering from my crash.  The care and sympathy of so many people certainly helped me get through it, but ultimately I had to work through my healing day by day myself.  Often when I’m racing or doing a long ride, a snippet from a song will get stuck in my head, serving as kind of a mantra to keep me focused.  Maybe it’s because we’re in the contemplative season of Lent anyway, but the song stuck in my head yesterday was the melancholy yet beautiful hymn “Jesus Walked This Lonesome Valley”: 

Jesus walked this lonesome valley.
He had to walk it by Himself;
O, nobody else could walk it for Him,
He had to walk it by Himself.

Spring Has (Almost) Sprung

I love being outdoors, and even on a bicycle you can notice a lot of things about the natural world if you’re paying attention.  I particularly enjoy looking for signs of the season at hand.  Right now we’re on the cusp of spring.  Not too far into my ride, my eyes started to hurt because something was getting into them.  Wait a minute…this is March, which can only mean…it’s almost time for pine pollen!  Sure enough, I checked the pine trees growing close to the road and saw the burgeoning pine pollen sacs (which, by the way, are the male pine cones).  I think this is a slash pine: 

Every year for about two weeks around the middle of March, riding my bicycle can be difficult because the pollen bothers my eyes so much.  (I wear contacts.)  It’s this painful, gritty feeling that, during this earliest onset of pine pollen, I usually can blink away as my eyes water.  However, I almost have to avoid riding for about a week as everything becomes coated in yellow.  Dublin is probably about a week ahead of Monticello in the flora cycle, and so I’ll start noticing the pine pollen here at home any day now.  Fortunately, my other observations of nature during yesterday’s ride were much more pleasant.

I love frogs!  It’s especially fun to identify their calls, which are easier to learn than bird calls.  (Incidentally, a lot of times people might think they are hearing a bird when it’s really a frog.)  I even have a CD of frog calls from the Georgia Department of Natural Resources.  This time of year, one of the most prevalent calls is that of the upland chorus frog.  It sounds like running your finger over a comb.  I heard lots of upland chorus frogs yesterday in swampy areas and even in pools of water left from recent rains.  Although frogs are easy to hear, they can be much more difficult to see.  To my delight, I did see one frog yesterday:

Yesterday I had my first turtle rescue of the year.  Whether I’m in a car or in my bicycle, whenever I see a turtle trying to cross a road and it’s not too dangerous for me to stop, I move it off of the pavement so that it doesn’t get run over.  The key to turtle rescue is to place it on the side of the road toward which it is crawling.  If you put it back on the side where it’s coming from, it will just try to cross the road again.  Understandably, a turtle being rescued like this usually will seal itself up in its shell while you carry it to safety.  Sometimes, like yesterday, you can hear the sound of it sealing itself up, which is really cool – WHOOSH!

Turtle on the road

Turtle safely moved to the side of the road

Zen and the Art of Bicycle Maintenance

I’ll admit that I don’t have to think much about bicycle maintenance because Robert is my mechanic.  It’s a good deal for both of us, though, because I’m his nutritionist.  Even though I don't do much bicycle maintenance, I definitely get into the zen side of cycling.

As I’ve been doing during each month during A Year of Centuries, I think my highlighted charity while I’m riding.  I had a wonderful reminder of Bicycles for Humanity on yesterday’s ride, a bracelet from the Atlanta chapter that came from Namibia, the focus country for its bicycle shipments.

Particularly during my more tired moments of the ride, I gratefully reflected on the good, paved roads available to me, considering that the people of Namibia only have much rougher, unpaved roads.  Also, I thought about how any discomfort I might be experiencing is nothing compared to having to haul water, wood, and everything else with only my own two feet to get around.

Toward the end of my ride, I laughed when I passed a highway sign unlike any I had seen before:

It caught my eye because I’m a civil engineer and specialize in stormwater.  I suppose it’s a lot easier and cheaper to put up a sign warning people of the problem than to actually fix the problem.  As I rode along and thought about this some more, it occurred to me that maybe there’s a little more truth to be learned from this sign than I first realized.  One of the main things I’m trying to do with A Year of Centuries is to raise awareness of certain concerns and the charitable groups that are addressing them.  Like the road sign, I can point out the problem all day long.  That needs to be done, but what else can I do of real value?  Giving money is certainly a good thing.  But sometimes there’s no substitute for actually rolling up your sleeves and meeting face-to-face someone in need.  Maybe I already to this to a degree, like coordinating the Middle Georgia chapter MATHCOUNTS competition.  The challenge for me is to do this outsize my comfort zone, to try to intersect with people whose orbits in life seem vastly different than mine.  I may not be able to go to Namibia myself, but as I continue through A Year of Centuries, I’m going to look for some different orbital zones.

So, overall it was a terrific century yesterday; the weather was nice, the countryside was beautiful, and I fueled properly.  In reality, though, any day I get to ride my bicycle is a good one, as this sign that I passed reminded me.  I’m glad I saw it early in the day because it made me smile for the rest of my ride:

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Spinning with B4H

My husband Robert is on an amateur bicycle racing team, and so he specifically trains for racing throughout the year.  In the wintertime, he trains outdoors as much as possible, but sometimes when the weather is uncooperative, he rides indoors on a trainer.  (Me, too!)  You attach your back wheel to the trainer, making a stationary bicycle.  He has computer programs to simulate different terrain.  Of course it’s not nearly as enjoyable as riding outside, but it’s an acceptable alternative if you want to stick to your training schedule.

A few winters ago Robert got bored with riding for hours at a time on his trainer in our basement.  So, he started a spin class in our town of Monticello, primarily to make his indoor training more fun and social.  He purchased 11 spin bikes and put them in the break room at our Jordan Engineering building.  Thus, jSpin was begun!

jSpin classes have been a big hit in our community from the beginning.  Robert teaches an interval training class on Monday evenings.  Two other people teach, one on Wednesday evenings and one on Thursday evenings.  Each instructor has a slightly different style, but all provide a great workout.  Classes are offered on Tuesday evenings, too, but there is not an instructor then.  Instead, Robert puts together a spin show of music videos, and class participants can ride at whatever level of intensity they choose while they watch.

As March approached, I began to think about the various ways I might promote Bicycles for Humanity (B4H).  As I described in a previous post, I found out about B4H through a tweet by cycling announcer Paul Sherwen.  I went to the B4H website and watched a video entitled “The Karamoja Bicycle Initiative,” in which he and B4H founder Pat Montani give an extremely informative overview of B4H’s work in Africa.  This video was an important part of my decision to include B4H as one of my charities in A Year of Centuries.  Getting to actually see how bicycles make it easier for people to transport water, loads of firewood, or just about anything makes so much more of an impression than just hearing or reading about it.  Hmmm…this would be a great video to include with a Tuesday jSpin class!

Usually, I only get to go to Monday jSpin classes because they start later than the others, and I have to commute home from work.  However, yesterday I had to work late and couldn’t get home in time for spin.  Therefore, I left work a little early today for jSpin.  I was excited to get to be there for the B4H video; things really do tend to work out for the best!

Why not check out "The Karamoja Bicycle Initiative" for yourself?

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Oh, the Places You'll Go - Like Namibia!

Each month this year, I am highlighting one of 12 charities in A Year of Centuries.  However, if an opportunity arises to support one of my charities sometime other than its designated month, of course I’ll take it.  After all, these deserving groups welcome help anytime!  Also, sometimes it makes sense to combine efforts on behalf of more than one charity at a time, giving each more leverage than it might have alone.  Just such an opportunity came up today here in Jasper County with a special community-wide event called Seuss on the Loose.  Seuss on the Loose was an event to raise money and awareness for the Ferst Foundation for Childhood Literacy (FFCL), which is my September charity.  A Year of Centuries provided a sponsor booth at this event.  The great thing is that it allowed me to volunteer on behalf of Bicycles for Humanity (B4H - my March charity) as well as FFCL.

FFCL will provide free books, one per month, from birth through age five to any child in Georgia.  Yes, that’s 60 total books!  Because reading is fundamental to education, these books can make a huge difference in low-income households, which often do not have a single age-appropriate book for young children.  For just $28 FFCL can provide books to a child for a whole year.  FFCL in Jasper County organized Seuss on the Loose in conjunction with Dr. Seuss’s birthday, March 2, to raise money for books for our local children.  Seuss on the Loose included sponsor booths with activities connected to specific Dr. Seuss books.  I requested Oh, The Places You’ll Go as my Dr. Seuss book – what better tie-in to A Year of Centuries and B4H!

Originally, Seuss on the Loose was to be an outdoor event that included a walk-a-thon.  However, with high temperatures today only in the upper 40s, everything was moved inside to the Jasper County High School cafeteria.  The venue change went off without a hitch.  We sponsors set up our booths, donned costumes, decorated, and had fun incorporating our Dr. Seuss books.  This was right up my alley!  I wore my Bike Tech cycling kit and brought my road bike.

To illustrate the many places I have taken a bicycle trip, I printed a large map of the United States, mounted it on cardboard, and attached photographs from some of the states I have visited via bicycle.

One young boy was looking at all of these pictures and said, "I wish I could go to all of those places."  I said, "You can!  Make that your goal, and as you get older, you can visit all of these places."  I was so sincere, and I hope that he will remember our brief conversation and really work toward his dreams.

For my booth activity, children got to "travel around the world."  I borrowed a children’s activity map of the world from my friend Debby.  It had Velcro stick-on pieces, including names of continents, countries, and bodies of water as well as pictures of animals.  Using clues, the children placed a toucan on Costa Rica and the word “Italy” on Italy to show the two foreign countries I have bicycled in.  Most significant, however, was the bicycle that I had them place on Namibia, which allowed me to introduce them to the important work of Bicycles for Humanity.

To give the children a feel for the impact of a B4H bicycle, I had a one-gallon jug of water that the child could lift.  That was pretty heavy!  Then, I explained that people in Namibia don’t have running water, and they have to carry water to their houses from sometimes several miles away.  Also, they carry much more water than just one gallon on each trip.  A bicycle makes getting water a lot easier.

Each booth activity was to have a prize, and so I gave each child a banana to refuel after our trip around the world.  I found that the bananas were also a good way to encourage children to visit my booth; it doesn't matter how young or old you are, everyone loves talking on the banana phone!

I'm guessing that all the kids had fun because I sure did! I made a point to have my picture taken with all of the critters on site:

The Cat in the Hat

The Ferst Foundation frog mascot

Smokey Bear

Fire Prevention Dog

I also had a photo opp with my friend Linda:

My booth was next to the Jasper County High School knitting club, and they graciously agreed to make a Lorax mustache for me:

The best thing of all about the day, though, was a great connection I made that will help B4H.  I saw a man named Bruce that I had met several years ago through the Jasper County Leadership Program.  I told him about B4H's work to collect unwanted bicycles for Namibia.  It turns out that Bruce is the Housing Facilities Director at Kennesaw State University, and he has about 80 bicycles, mostly in very good condition, that he is trying to get rid of.  Wow!  He and I were both thrilled.

Oh, the Places You'll Go!

Friday, March 1, 2013

Bicycles for Humanity

As I considered charities to include in A Year of Centuries, I wanted to include one that deals with bicycles.  That’s because bicycles have been such an important part of my life, allowing me to see so many wonderful places close-up, have fun with my husband, make a lot of good friends, and stretch myself through competition.  Also, having a bicycle charity seems to be a rather direct way to make a positive out of the negative from my crash.

I Googled bicycle charities and decided almost immediately that I wanted to work with one that provides bicycles to people who need them for transportation.  A bicycle – something that is primarily an instrument of fun for me – can provide a huge improvement in quality of life to someone in a developing country.  I tried to check out a few of these charities through Charity Navigator and a few other groups that rate charities.  However, there are literally thousands of charities out there, and these cycling charities generally are too small to be on the radar screens of charity watchdogs.  Next, I started asking some of my cycling friends if they could recommend any bicycle charities, but no one had any connections.

At last I found Bicycles for Humanity (B4H) – thanks to Twitter!  I’m not on Twitter myself, but my husband is.  He follows professional cycling announcer Paul Sherwen, who tweeted about B4H one day.  B4H works in several African countries, including Uganda, which is Paul’s native country.  I’m not one to go for a product just because of a celebrity endorsement, but in this case Paul Sherwen provided the vetting I was looking for.  B4H collects unwanted yet still usable bicycles, primarily in the United States, and ships them to people who can really use them in other countries.  The bicycles are delivered in 40-foot shipping containers that become Bicycle Empowerment Centers.  People ride the bicycles to collect water, go to school or work, or deliver goods to market.  Bicycles greatly reduce the time that people would need to walk to these places, and they allow people to carry much more weight.  In addition, local people are trained in mechanics and business so that they can use the shipping containers as local bike shops, improving the local economy.  Not to mention, the bicycles get new life rather than being dumped in a landfill here in the U.S.

B4H operates at the grassroots level through local chapters, like the one in Atlanta.  I contacted Mary Fortson Harwell with B4H Georgia, and she enthusiastically welcomed my support through A Year of Centuries.  B4H Georgia will be shipping a container of bicycles to Namibia, Africa in May, and so now is a perfect time to make a donation to help make this happen.  You can do so by visiting  Thank you for your help!