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Mary Jo DiLonardo

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Mary Jo DiLonardo has been an Atlanta Magazine contributor for 15 years, covering education, health, and family issues. She has written for many magazines, newspapers, and web sites including WebMD where her work has made her half-doctor, half-hypochondriac. She is currently trying to survive parenting a teenage boy.

eBay’s Small Business of the Year started as a mission to help others in Powder Springs

Laurie Wong
Laurie Wong in front of her store, Reflections of Trinity

Photograph by Fernando Decillis

Laurie Wong ended up becoming an eBay “powerseller” because she wanted to fill a need in the community that her church couldn’t. When neighbors suffered a house fire or other crisis, she was frustrated that the Trinity Chapel Church of God in Powder Springs had no ministry to provide them with clothing and household items.

“At the time, we didn’t have a food pantry or clothing closet that was set up to handle those needs,” says Wong, 55, who worked at the church, first as executive assistant to the bishop then later as outreach pastor. “I wanted to be a resource in those sorts of situations.”

She began holding used clothing sales in 2000 to raise funds and offer affordable items to neighbors. The annual sales were so successful that Wong decided to open a thrift store just five minutes from the church in 2003.

Trinity Chapel pitched in to renovate the space, while Wong put in 16- to 18-hour days, working three jobs in order to support herself while getting the store ready. “I was scared out of my mind,” she says. “I had no experience and no background. I just knew that I felt a calling deep within that this is what we needed to do.”

In those early years, Wong was still on staff at the church. She also taught at Trinity Chapel’s school and regularly traveled to Savannah, where she taught underprivileged kids about business and finances. Although Wong now lives off the store revenues, for its first five years, she drew no salary. “I put all my money back into the business so it could grow,” she says.

Eventually a steady stream of donations came in, but sales had stalled. Foot traffic was sparse because the store is located on a side street in “the backwoods of nowhere,” Wong says, and there was no money for advertising. A friend suggested she try eBay in order to reach a larger audience. Reflections of Trinity went online in 2005.

For a year Wong spent at least six hours in front of her computer every night after leaving the store, teaching herself how to sell online. She listed items, took photos, and started seeing sales increase. “I was bulldog determined we were going to have a national, if not global, platform,” Wong says.

Occasionally she sold something unusual, like a house for a friend; she got the asking price after only 45 days. She once earned a commission for selling a tractor trailer that former Falcons coach Jerry Glanville used to haul his race cars.

For each of the past five years, Reflections of Trinity’s revenue from online sales has been between $60,000 and $85,000, Wong says. The additional income allowed her to launch a food pantry next door in 2012 that now distributes more than 400 boxes of food every Saturday morning, mostly to families in Cobb, Paulding, and Douglas counties. Last year the pantry distributed 622,965 pounds of food, which comes from other pantries and ministries in the area, as well as food auctions and drives held by local schools and businesses.

The store became independent of the church in 2007 and receives only a small monthly stipend to help cover expenses. It now has a staff of nine paid employees and 10 core volunteers.

Wong’s success caught the eye of eBay, which chose Reflections of Trinity from more than 1,300 entries as its 2016 Shine Awards Small Business of the Year. The recognition came with a $10,000 cash prize. According to eBay, the Shine Awards are based on “exceptional, original sellers, who embody a passion for eBay and encapsulate our core values.” The eBay community voted on the finalists.

Although Wong is proud of what she has done for her community, she’s not finished. She’s working on a program that will bring a week’s worth of groceries at a time to seniors who don’t have transportation to get to the pantry. Eventually she’d even like to take time off to spend with her six kids and eight grandkids.

“I want to [relax], but I can’t right now—not until I’m satisfied that what I need to do is taken care of,” Wong says. “Then I can step back a little bit and breathe.”

How to commission a pet portrait, find a lost dog, and more

PetsHow to commission a portrait of Captain Snugglepuss
First decide: Do you want a painting to hang over the mantel? A nice framed photo? Alpharetta-based Lauren Hammack uses snapshots to paint acrylic portraits on canvas. A 12×12 creation is $169. Kirkwood’s Julia Ann Starke sketches watercolors from high-res photos. An 11×15 is $95. Photographer Parker Smith of Decatur will shoot Snuggles in a studio or at home. Portraits range from $500 to $2,000 and include session fee, print, and framing.

PetsHow to create a pet-friendly yard
When choosing plants, be aware that many—from azaleas to ivy to daffodils—are toxic to animals, while others won’t stand up to the pounding of paws, says Atlanta landscape architect Danna Cain, of Home & Garden Design. Her favorites include creeping jenny, mazus, and blue star creeper. She also avoids dyed mulch, which can result in paw prints on the couch. Mud can also be a challenge. If you have a digger, she suggests creating a special pit of half sand, half soil—and placing it far away from your pansy beds.

PetsHow to make sure my dog is getting a jog
Keep your pricey dog walker in check with a Fitbit for Fido. One popular device, Whistle ($99), attaches to your pet’s collar and tracks the amount and type of activity, from swimming to playing. Data syncs to your phone, where you can compare it with other pups in the same breed. FitBark ($99.95) weighs just eight grams, making it good for small breeds, and includes many of the same features—plus it enables your vet to check the stats, too.

PetsHow to watch my dachshund from my desk
Whether you just need a lunchtime dose of cute or want to keep your dog from tearing up the new sofa, you can install Dropcam ($199) to monitor your pet long-distance. Mount the camera (with 130-degree field of vision and 8x zoom) and watch the live feed from your phone or computer. You can even give commands (“Drop that shoe, Max!”) using the built-in mic and speaker.

How to find my runaway-prone pet
For $25, Atlanta Humane Society will embed a 24PetWatch microchip the size of a grain of rice and register it with a national database. The brief procedure is no more painful than vaccination and saves a lot of time and pain. The next time Skippy takes off, any vet or shelter can scan the chip and return him home.

Flying can be stressful, especially if your pet is traveling in the cargo hold instead of tucked under your seat. But if you send Buddy via Delta Cargo, you can add a GPS tracker to your pet’s crate. The technology measures temperature and humidity levels, among other factors, and if conditions become unsafe—for example, if it gets hotter than 85˚F—the device alerts Delta’s call center. (Owners can also check their pets’ status online.) The $50 service is available for pets shipped on Delta out of Atlanta and nine other airports.

PetsHow to negotiate pet custody with my ex
“The court is not legally allowed to award visitation,” says Atlanta attorney Randy Kessler of Kessler & Solomiany Family Law Attorneys. Did you have the pet before the marriage? If so, it’s yours. Did you acquire it during the marriage? “Then the pet is treated as property, like a couch or a car. One of you gets it; one of you doesn’t.” If you want to avoid legal wrangling, Kessler has drafted prenup agreements in which spouses decide ahead of time on custody and visitation rights. “For most people, it’s obvious who gets custody,” he says. “You’re not going to punish your wife’s dog because she cheated on you.”

How to board my pet while I’m on vacation
Finding a good boarding kennel is like finding a good daycare—you have to do your research. Ask friends and family for recommendations, then swing by for an in-person tour. Below, the Atlanta Humane Society offers a checklist of what to look for:

  • An airy, well-lit, and clean-smelling boarding area. Housing should be spacious enough to accommodate your pet and his personal belongings, like a bed, crate and/or toys.
  • A crate large enough for your pet to easily stand up and turn around.
  • A dry, clean area for food storage. Food should be kept in airtight containers.
  • An experienced caregiver with a certificate or degree in animal welfare or on-the-job training. Ask if you can meet those who will be directly caring for your pet. Staff should be able to administer medications if necessary and there should be a vet on call as needed.
  • Playmates that match your pet’s temperament and level of activity.

Think your pet will do better at home? Go to dogvacay.com to find pet sitters (who can host in their home or yours) and sort by references, location, cost and more.

How to learn more about my mutt
DNA testing can offer a hint as to what breeds are in your puppy’s family tree—but warning, it’s not foolproof. At-home test kits are cheap and easy ($60-$85; just swab his cheek and send it off to the lab), but accuracy depends on the quality of the sample as well as the number of breeds and genetic markers in the testing database. Wisdom Panel 3.0, for example, compares DNA to more than 250 breeds and species (including wolf and coyote), while DNA My Dog has just over 80 breeds in its database. As a result, different tests may yield different results for the same dog.

To get the best sample, wait at least two hours after your dog has eaten and check his mouth for food particles before swabbing. If you have more than one dog, make sure they haven’t shared food, water bowls or even toys for several hours before the test.

Alternately, you can find a vet who performs DNA blood testing. Since the sample comes from a blood draw rather than a cheek swab, there’s less potential for contamination. The results won’t necessarily be more accurate, though, depending on the size of the DNA database being used. And it’s more costly: typically over $100.

Still, “benefits of DNA testing can go beyond satisfying an owner’s curiosity,” says Gloria Dorsey, DVM, of the Atlanta Humane Society. “There is potential to make you aware of breed-specific predilections or propensity for certain illnesses, like hip dysplasia in German shepherds or cancer in boxers.”

Illustrations by Paul Blow.

A version of this article originally appeared in our August 2015 issue.

How to prepare for the loss of a pet

My husband and I thought we were prepared for the loss of our dog. He had been sick for many years, so it shouldn’t have been a shock when it was time to let him go. But it was. We had never talked details with our vet beforehand, and we were too choked up to do so in the moment. We made the fewest heart-wrenching decisions possible and told them to just bill our credit card. We still don’t know what the cost of euthanasia and cremation will be.

No one likes to think about death. But because we usually outlive our furry family members, it’s something all pet owners have to face. It helps to know what to expect, so as end of life draws near, you’ll be (at least somewhat) prepared.

0815_petlifedeath01_rchapman_oneuseonlyDeciding when to let go
People like to say, “You’ll know when it’s time.” But emotions can cloud your judgment, and it helps to have more concrete advice. “Animals in general are very present-minded. You can’t really explain that tomorrow will be better,” says Alpharetta veterinarian Kaylin Touché, who counsels owners to pick a pet’s five favorite things. Maybe it’s playing ball or going for walks with the family or just eating breakfast. “When your pet loses two of those favorite things, it’s time to agree you’re getting close to the end. When you lose three, be prepared to call your vet, because at that point you’ve lost quality of life,” she says.

Once the difficult decision has been made, there’s still another to face: whether or not to be present for the procedure. “Many [owners] see it as a way to have closure,” says Decatur veterinarian Will Draper, who has a special euthanasia room with a private entrance at his practice. “Others prefer to say goodbye beforehand.”

PetsCalculating the cost factor
It’s unfortunate, but often money becomes an issue when making the choice for euthanasia. Perhaps your pet was in an accident and requires thousands of dollars in surgeries and care. Or you’re facing mounting bills for tests, medications, and recurring vet visits for a chronic condition.

“I never make anyone feel guilty,” says metro Atlanta veterinarian M.G. McReynolds, who performs at-home euthanasia. “I’ve heard of situations where people were strong-armed into doing some things they couldn’t afford to do.” It’s best to talk ahead of time about what you can reasonably spend, he says, so you don’t fall down the “just one more procedure” rabbit hole.

If you decide on euthanasia, it generally runs about $100 at a vet’s office (though many will waive the fee for long-time patients) or $250 at home. Some owners opt for pet insurance to help pay for unexpected medical expenses, but take a look at the fine print. Not all procedures, conditions, and drugs are covered. Draper generally suggests policies—which cost about $20/month for a dog and $15/month for a cat—only to people who have multiple pets. “Otherwise, I recommend getting a pet-only credit card or starting a savings account for potential emergencies,” he says.

Choosing a final resting place
When your pet dies, you have to choose what to do with his remains. Although it’s legal in the state of Georgia to lay your pet to rest in your own backyard, some municipalities have separate ordinances. Backyard pet burial is not authorized in the city of Atlanta, for example, but there are no ordinances against it in Alpharetta, Decatur, Roswell, or Peachtree City. Still, many people choose cremation; if you move, you’ll never have to leave your pet behind.

There are several metro Atlanta pet crematories, and many vets have a relationship with one and will offer to take care of arrangements for you. You can decide between communal cremation and private cremation, in which your pet is cremated individually and its ashes are returned to you, often in a keepsake container. Costs vary, but for a medium-sized dog, expect to pay $200 for private and $75 for communal cremation.

If your pet dies at home—naturally or as a result of euthanasia—you can choose a crematory based on cost and other features. At Paws, Whiskers & Wags crematory in Decatur, for example, owners can use private rooms to say goodbye. Deceased Pet Care, which has three metro Atlanta locations, offers cremation as well as burial at pet cemeteries in Bethlehem (Oak Rest Pet Gardens) and Douglasville (Loving Care Pet Gardens). Burial costs $500 and up. At Oak Rest, owners’ cremated remains can even be interred alongside those of their pets.

Coping with the loss
Psychologist Robin Chisolm-Seymour leads a pet loss support group at Blue Pearl/Georgia Veterinary Specialists in Sandy Springs. Her advice to grieving owners:

“It’s important to get support, whether it’s from a group (the Atlanta Humane Society has one, or you can ask your vet for a referral) or family and friends—as long as it is someone who understands what you’re feeling. That goes for kids, too. You want them to be comfortable expressing their sadness. Teenagers tend to not want to deal with things, particularly with their parents. If your teenager can’t bring himself to reveal his emotions to you, see if there’s somebody else he can talk to.

Not everyone needs a memorial service. Instead, you might make a scrapbook or photo album, or plant something in your pet’s honor, or have a piece of jewelry or keychain [made] with your pet’s name. Something you can touch. That’s one of the things we really miss—the constant touching and petting.”

Illustrations by Ryan Chapman.

This article originally appeared in our August 2015.

Study: Warehouse clubs are making us fatter

supersized
Illustration by Robin Davey

What makes Americans obese? We can point pudgy fingers at giant restaurant portions or weigh the effect of sedentary Netflix binges, but here’s another hefty culprit: supercenters and warehouse clubs like Costco, Sam’s Club, BJ’s Wholesale, and Walmart. Georgia State University health economist Charles Courtemanche looked at dozens of economic factors that might have contributed to the rise in U.S. obesity and concluded that, without a doubt, restaurants and big-box stores have had the biggest impact. We asked him to elaborate on his findings, which were published in a working paper by the National Bureau of Economic Research.

The connection between restaurants and obesity seems obvious. What made you look at big-box stores? That goes back to a paper I published in 2011 documenting the link between Walmart Supercenters and obesity rates. We had known from other studies that Walmart and warehouse clubs led to significant reductions in food prices, and we knew that food prices were associated with body weight. This new paper is more a synthesis of what I and others have been working on for the last decade. We put all these factors in a statistical horse race to see which survive and which don’t.

What were considerations in that horse race? We’re not talking about, “We gain weight because we’re eating more or exercising less.” As economists, we’re interested in why we eat more or exercise less. We wanted to know: Is it cheap food? Is it more readily available food? Is it the movement of people into the suburbs? Into sedentary jobs?

What results surprised you? Obesity researchers in general would’ve expected more impact from sedentary jobs, but very little showed up to indicate that being in a very active job made a difference. The timing of the shift from blue-collar to white-collar jobs predates rising obesity.

Is the impact that we buy—and thus eat—in bulk? It could be either low prices or buying in bulk. If I had to guess, it would be prices, because you see the same impact at Walmart as at warehouse clubs.

You don’t need a PhD for this story. It could be as simple as that food’s cheaper so people eat more of it, it could be bulk, or it could be a grander story that shopping is switching from walking around downtown to driving out to the suburbs. It could be a complicated combination of all these things. Or it could be simply: “These stores sell really cheap food, and that makes people gain weight.”

Do the stores affect all shoppers? The effects are concentrated among people already at risk for being obese or those over the threshold for being overweight. The stores are harmless for most, but for some people, they trigger self-control issues.

How do restaurants factor in? It seems it’s a time/cost rather than a money/cost connection. If there are no restaurants within walking distance of your office, you bring your lunch. But if there are 20 restaurants, you eat out three times a week. On average, restaurant food is less healthy than food you prepare.

So, what should we do? Economists think more about policy than what individuals should be doing. This isn’t saying avoid Costco. There are great benefits to shopping there; you can save a ton of money. I think it’s more like: If you know you’re going to shop there, realize there are going to be temptations.


Fatty Factors

The study analyzed how 27 state-level economic factors related to obesity rates. Rising gas prices were linked to declining obesity, presumably because they prompted people to walk or take transit. How other factors increased or decreased obesity:

16.3%
Supercenters/warehouse clubs

13.8%
Restaurants

3.4%
Fast food prices

0.5%
Longer work hours

-2.7%
Fitness centers

-3.5%
Higher gas prices

This article originally appeared in our June 2015 issue under the headline “Supersized.”

Can UGA scientists save endangered big cats with a “frozen zoo”?

Jalal, the Zoo Atlanta tiger that contributed cells to the project
Jalal, the Zoo Atlanta tiger that contributed cells to the project

Photograph courtesy of Zoo Atlanta

It’s a long way from the jungles of Sumatra to a lab in Athens, Georgia, but two University of Georgia researchers hope to create a stem cell bank that could save endangered big cats. Its first deposits are cells collected from Zoo Atlanta’s Jalal, a Sumatran tiger, and Moby, a clouded leopard. Franklin West, assistant professor of regenerative medicine, and Steven Stice, director of UGA’s Regenerative Bioscience Center, teamed to create the stem cell bank and crowdsource funding. We talked to West about their planned “frozen zoo.”

How did you get into stem cell work?
I started with human embryonic stem cells and turned them into sperm. I always get the question, “Isn’t there already enough sperm in the world?” But there is so much infertility. Turning stem cells into sperm allows you to study every single stage of sperm development.

What made you decide on tigers and leopards?
We could use stem cell technology with a lot of species. But the problem is, when you start trying to save elephants, we don’t know a lot about their reproductive biology like we do with big cats, because we all have cats as pets. We chose the Sumatran tiger because it’s highly endangered; there are only 400 left. There are so few individuals that relatives are starting to breed with one another, leading to genetic problems in cubs. The clouded leopard is not endangered but threatened.

How does it work?
We take skin cells when the animals are sedated. We are able to generate stem cells from those skin cells and then turn the stem cells into sperm and eggs, which can be fertilized. From there, we can put that embryo into a recipient animal—like a domestic cat that thinks it’s pregnant with its own offspring.

What are the possible implications?
Theoretically you could make thousands of embryos and transfer them to thousands of cats, and the species could be doing fairly well within a couple of years. It could literally go from critically endangered to being off the endangered species list altogether. It would be huge.

A big problem in zoos is that they’ll have only four or five animals of a species. When the population is small and you have limited genetic diversity, you have health problems when you start breeding.

Stem cells are immortal; the embryos would essentially live forever. You could create what we could call a frozen zoo. They are already doing this for seeds, like some species of corn that are resistant to drought. You basically have an insurance policy against extinction that could be caused by natural or man-made catastrophes like global warming.

Why crowdsource through Georgia­Funder instead of soliciting research grants?
There’s really not a good funding mechanism for this kind of endangered species conservation work. So this is a grassroots effort. I feel like enough people out there really think it’s important. If we get the word out about what we can do to save endangered species, then people will pitch in.

Photograph by UGA Photographic Services
Photograph by UGA Photographic Services

Tiger theory
How do you go from tiny cells to big cats? Franklin West walked us through the theoretical process.

  • Two Sumatran tiger (male and female) skin cell biopsies turn into 10,000 skin cells
  • Which are reprogrammed into 5,000 stem cells
  • Which are developed into 10,000 sperm and 10,000 eggs
  • Which form 10,000 embryos after fertilization
  • Which are transferred into 1,000 female cats
  • And develop into 10,000 kittens, which change the face of an entire species on the brink of extinction.

This article originally appeared in our April 2015 issue under the headline “Creating a frozen zoo.”

How an Emory researcher benefited from the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge

Last summer, as millions of people worldwide posted Facebook and YouTube videos of themselves taking part in the Ice Bucket Challenge in the name of raising funds and awareness for amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or ALS, skeptics wondered if all that social media hype would translate into something tangible.

Short answer: Yes. The challenge raised $115 million for the ALS Association, which in October announced initial grants of almost $22 million to researchers, including Jonathan Glass, who directs the Emory ALS Center.

Illustration by Bratislav Milenkovic/Synergy Art
Illustration by Bratislav Milenkovic/Synergy Art

Glass is one of the U.S. investigators for Project MinE, an international genetic research program that will receive $1 million in funds raised by the challenge. Glass, the only local researcher involved with MinE, says he’d requested funds long before anyone posted ice bucket videos. “We had put a grant into [the ALS Association] back in May, before anybody had done the Ice Bucket Challenge,” he says. “It’s an enormous project that requires multiple countries, multiple investigators, and it’s going to be very, very expensive.”

Although Glass wasn’t surprised his program got the funding, he was shocked at the success of the slushy fundraiser itself. “What was wonderful was that it was grassroots. What it’s done is raise awareness for a disease that is relatively rare,” he says. “In terms of a campaign, it was just extraordinary. We have money; we have awareness.”

Of course, Glass and his team all performed the challenge. “Even my mother did it—and she’s 87 years old.”

Fast facts: Project MinE

  • The project is working to map the DNA profiles of 15,000 people with ALS to compare with the profiles of 7,500 control subjects.
  • 13% of the profiles—2,808 to be precise—had been collected by November 2014.
  • The study’s objective is to identify genes that may influence whether someone gets ALS, when an individual gets it, how quickly it manifests, and how the disease affects the body.
  • The project originated in the Netherlands and includes researchers in multiple countries, such as Portugal, Belgium, and Ireland. The name MinE comes from “mining”
  • 2,500 (or 1,950 Euros) is the cost to complete one DNA sequence

This article originally appeared in our January 2015 issue.

2 winning Atlanta workouts (and great tunes to go with them)

Photograph courtesy of Orangetheory
Photograph courtesy of Orangetheory

Try harder if you’re competing? Check out these classes

Orangetheory Fitness
Attack the treadmill, rowing machine, and free weights while wearing a heart rate monitor to keep you in the “orange” zone—as posted on a screen for all to see. 8 locations, including Midtown and East Cobb; orangetheoryfitness.com

Flywheel
Frantic high-speed stadium cycling in the dark while pop music blasts and you compete to get on the leaderboard. Buckhead and Midtown; flywheelsports.com

 

Pump up the volume
We asked local exercise lovers what song helps pump them up when they work out.

Dr. Sanjay Gupta
CNN’s chief medical correspondent
“Lose Yourself” by Eminem

Bert Weiss
Nationally syndicated Q100 radio host
Playlist of Girl Talk mixes

Kasim Reed
Mayor of Atlanta
“More” by Usher

Dr. Meria Carstarphen
Atlanta Public Schools superintendent
“I Wish” by Stevie Wonder (but she warms up with Tchaikovsky’s “Swan Lake”)

Back to Your Best Year Ever

This article originally appeared in our 2015 Health issue.

3 scenic running trails in Atlanta

We asked Eric Champlin, editor and founder of AtlantaTrails.com, to recommend three of his favorite routes around metro Atlanta. Here’s what he had to say:

Atlanta BeltLine Eastside Trail
Atlanta BeltLine Eastside Trail

Photograph courtesy of the BeltLine

Beginner
Atlanta BeltLine Eastside Trail
No hills + skyline views
Grab a run on the paved Eastside Trail, catching skyline views of Midtown at Piedmont Park en route to Ponce City Market, past the Historic Fourth Ward Park, and into Inman Park. This former rail corridor runs nearly level, so it’s beginner-friendly and great for a run up to four miles.

Intermediate
Cochran Shoals
Long distance + riverside scenery
One of Atlanta’s most scenic, traffic-free, and popular running trails, the Cochran Shoals 5K loop follows gentle rolling elevations on the banks of the Chattahoochee River. To catch more distance, exit the north end and run Columns Drive to Johnson Ferry Road, adding five miles.

Advanced
Panola Mountain PATH Trail to Alexander Lake
Winding hills + glassy lake views
Run a five-mile loop at this state park on a paved trail, grabbing a moderate hill workout on rolling, scenic terrain. The trail runs over a causeway on Alexander Lake and through a historic barn. Not winded yet? PATH trail networks span 30 miles.

Back to Your Best Year Ever

This article originally appeared in our 2015 Health issue.

How to work out in your car

Atlantans spend a lot of time in cars—30.1 minutes each time we drive to work. That’s more than any other major city except New York, D.C., and Chicago. When you can’t move, use the delay to exercise. Personal trainer Carlos Jordan of Buckhead’s Ultimate Bodies by Carlos suggests trying the following exercises (but only when you’re at a complete stop!):

Illustration by Jameson Simpson
Illustration by Jameson Simpson

Commuter crunch
Tuck in your pelvis and engage your lower abdominal muscles. Then engage your upper abs and move your ribcage slightly toward your hips. Hold for 10 seconds and rest for three seconds, but keep breathing. Repeat eight to 12 times or until tired.

Oblique stomach crunch
Flex your upper and lower stomach muscles and then raise your right hip as high as it will go. Hold for three seconds, then lower and repeat on the left side. Repeat 10 times on each side or until tired.

75/85 gridlock
Grip the steering wheel at opposite ends, and try to push your hands toward each other for three seconds, as if you are crushing the wheel. Rest, then grip the wheel and try to pull your hands away from each other for three seconds. Repeat 10 times or until tired.

285 steering wheel push-ups
Place your hands at 10 o’clock and 2 o’clock on the steering wheel. Flex the entire length of your arms. Pull yourself toward the wheel for three seconds, then push yourself away from the wheel for three seconds. Resting after each repetition, repeat 10 times or until tired.

Back to Your Best Year Ever

This article originally appeared in our 2015 Health issue.

Find a peaceful escape in Atlanta

The Cathedral of St. Philip labyrinth
“Walking the labyrinth” is often a metaphor for a spiritual pilgrimage. While you stroll the intricate paved outdoor maze, you can pray, meditate, or just let your mind drift. The church’s bookstore stocks multiple titles on the practice, plus desk-sized versions to take home. 2744 Peachtree Road, 404-365-1034

The tea house at the Hyatt's Zen Garden
The tea house at the Hyatt’s Zen Garden

Photograph by Laura Rubinstein

The Carter Presidential Center gardens
The grounds of the center are a 35-acre park that includes waterfalls, a rose garden, a koi pond, and even a cherry orchard. Wander amid colorful blooms in the cut flower garden, or sit in a pavilion with a view of the Atlanta skyline. 453 Freedom Parkway, 404-420-5100

Swan Woods Trail, Atlanta History Center
This serene path winds through 10 acres of oak, hickory, and pine trees and a former cotton field. Sit in the quiet Garden for Peace, where you’ll see a life-sized sculpture of a tree surrounded by figures holding hands. The bronze work, called The Peace Tree, came from the Republic of Georgia in 1989. 130 West Paces Ferry Road, 404-814-4000

Japanese Zen Garden at the Grand Hyatt Atlanta, Buckhead
The Grand Hyatt was formerly a Hotel Nikko and was fortunate to inherit a very feng shui garden designed by a Kyoto architect. The soothing sounds of a trickling water feature and cascading waterfall just might make you late to your next conference breakout session. 3300 Peachtree Road, 404-237-1234

Big Trees Forest Preserve
This tranquil 30-acre urban forest has a 1.5-mile soft-mulch walking trail meandering through a forest of oak trees that are between 100 and 200 years old. There are creeks and plenty of benches for pensive moments. 7645 Roswell Road, Sandy Springs, 770-673-0111

Back to Your Best Year Ever

This article originally appeared in our 2015 Health issue.

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