Get rid of grubs before they gut your grass

An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.

This article was written for AllProGrounds.com.

April showers bring May flowers. And June bugs bring grubs.

But not if we can help it.

Grub worms are the larvae of June bugs. And they love to destroy your lawn.

The bad news: Grubs are active earlier than usual this year. If you haven't treated your lawn, it's at risk.

The good news: The treatment is simple and inexpensive (it's a do-it-yourself job). Just apply a granular treatment of grub prevention, usually once per year. It's 95% effective. The only caveat is that some of the treatment could wash away if there is a heavy downpour immediately after you apply it.

There are a lot of good product options, so I don't recommend one over another. Here are several to choose from: http://bit.ly/1XSzXem

Grubs going great guns
In addition, this year may be an exception to the once-per-year rule. Because grubs are out so early, another treatment in the fall may be advisable.

If you do nothing, grubs may feast on your grass's roots. Once that happens, it's R.I.P. for that patch of lawn. No amount of watering or spraying can resuscitate it.

Grubs have likely gotten to your grass if it goes brown and dormant during the growing season. Grab a yellow or brown tuft of grass and pull on it. If it breaks loose, you've got grubs.

And like a bad piece of carpet, it's got to be removed. But not to fear: You can re-seed the area or replace it with sod.

Just don't forget to apply the treatment next time.

If you haven't applied it this year, it's not too late.

Let's band together and show those grubs who's boss.

The Cancer Detectives

Science Needs Patients to Suceed

By ROY HARRYMAN

Featured in "Beyond Blue", the journal of Fight Colorectal Cancer.

A cancer cell, like a shadowy thief, can live undetected by the body’s immune system.
Although in many cases the disease makes itself known, it still has a way of being elusive.
But take heart: Fight Colorectal Cancer is working with cancer cops – aka cutting-edge researchers – who are on the beat in a global effort to defeat cancer. 

Read the rest of the article here.

Community group hopes to turn renters into owners

BY ROY HARRYMAN

This article originally appeared in The Kansas City Star.

Nancy Bauder’s childhood home is still standing, but the houses of many of her former neighbors have been demolished.
 
A new non-profit development organization says that’s symptomatic of northeast Leavenworth: strong historic and family ties, but diminishing opportunities for home ownership. The Community Development Corp. of Leavenworth hopes to change that.
 
It’s seeking to purchase, renovate and build homes in the area north of downtown, south of Fort Leavenworth and east of North Broadway Street.
 
It hopes to begin work on its first home by March 1 of next year and to tackle five homes by the end of 2008.
 
“We want to create home owners out of home renters,” said Bauder, who is the volunteer executive director of the organization.
 
The development group plans to keep the architecture of new and refurbished homes in line with the historic character of the neighborhood.
 
The target area contains several distinctive sites, including the Richard Allen Cultural Center and the historic Bethel AME Church, which was part of the Underground Railroad. It’s also the location of the first cathedral built west of the Mississippi River.
 
Although the historic icons have weathered the test of time, many homes have not. Some have been demolished while deterioration plagues others.
 
In addition, more than 70 percent of the homes in the district are rental properties, according to Bauder. That compares to about 50 percent for the city as a whole. The organization also says the neighborhood’s crime rate is higher than the city average.
 
 “We’ve seen a real increase in rental property in the last 10 years,” Bauder said.
 
While many renters have attentive landlords, other properties suffer from neglect, she said.
 
There are about 1,200 residents in the target area, which includes four schools, 11 churches and five parks. There are more than 100 vacant lots along with some deteriorated homes that need to be torn down, Bauder said.
 
“Improving that area will improve the entire city,” she said.
 
Although housing projects have been undertaken in Leavenworth, none have been this encompassing, said Michael Crow, the organization’s chairman and the husband of Rep. Marti Crow.
 
“It’s more than just putting a roof over somebody’s head,” he said. “This is a neighborhood project.”
 
The targeted area has many families who have lived there for several generations. Most have low-to-moderate incomes.
 
Bauder recalls her upbringing in the city and how her father bought his first home in the neighborhood. She said today’s economic times are more challenging for the city’s first-time home buyers.
 
“We see issues of people with young families needing a leg up and things are more difficult now,” she said. “If we can help them get a leg up … it’s going to have such a big impact. I want to see future generations grow up here.”
 
Bauder said many renters don’t realize they can actually afford to own a home because their monthly mortgage payments would be equal to or less than their rent.
 
Although anyone will be able to purchase the refurbished and new homes, the development group said the houses will appeal mostly to low- and middle-income buyers.
 
The organization plans to work with social service agencies to help identify buyers who would benefit the most. Purchasers will have to qualify for conventional loans.
 
The group’s main challenge is developing a funding base. It has received a matching grant of $30,000 from the Kansas Housing Resources Corp. and has until Dec. 31 to raise matching funds.
 
It’s also seeking private and public money for ongoing support.
 
“We are actively fund raising and will be,” Bauder said.
 

 

All jazzed up: How a Manhattan (NYC) church attracts the arts community with jazz and classical music

BY ROY HARRYMAN

This article originally appeared in Outreach Magazine.

Each week, nearly 6,000 people in the Manhattanan area choose between classical or jazz: Not what CD to pop in, but what church service to go to. One may feature a jazz quintet complete with drums, bass, electric guitar, saxophone, piano and vocals. The other offers classical music with rotating string and brass ensembles, occasional choirs and instrumentalists on piano and harp.

For six years, Redeemer Presbyterian Church in New York City has been attracting artists, musicians and young professionals from its overwhelmingly secular neighborhood to its four unique worship settings: two jazz and two classical and all led by top-notch musicians, including a few Grammy winners.

Read the rest of this article via PDF.


Police chaplains take mission of mercy to community’s frontlines

Scott Davidson, Flickr; Jeff Kirchoff, Lee's Summit Journal; Elvert Barnes, Flickr

Scott Davidson, Flickr; Jeff Kirchoff, Lee's Summit Journal; Elvert Barnes, Flickr

BY ROY HARRYMAN

This article originally appeared in the Lee's Summit Journal
 
When Missouri Trooper Brandon Brashear was riddled with bullets during a May traffic stop in Lee’s Summit, Bryan England rushed to his defense.
 
England isn’t a police officer and doesn’t carry a gun. But as a law enforcement chaplain, he covered the wounded officer with a shield of spiritual and moral support.
 
After Brashear was airlifted to a hospital, England and other chaplains hurried to comfort friends and family. He stayed for six hours, helping to sustain relatives while Brashear underwent life-saving surgery.
 
Next, England went to Highway Patrol Troop A headquarters to support officers struggling to cope with the attack.
 
Although that’s not a typical day in the life of a chaplain, it illustrates the behind-the-scenes support these ministers provide to officers working on the front lines of the community.
 
“They’re invaluable,” said Lee’s Summit Police Chief  Ken Conlee. “They have a different set of skills than a police officer would have. They show up at critical incidents and provide assistance not only to the citizens but also to the officers.”
 
England, who serves at Grace and Holy Trinity Cathedral, an Episcopal church in Kansas City, is part of a team of volunteer chaplains who serve Lee’s Summit’s law enforcement officers. Ten support the Police Department and five serve Troop A.
 
Chaplains have the unenviable task of helping officers deliver death notices and of being on hand when family deaths are investigated. They also offer their services to police who need counseling or simply want to vent after a difficult day.
 
“It is the best volunteer program going,” said Officer John Boenker, public information officer for the Lee’s Summit Police Department.
 
Comfort in time of need
Officers and chaplains face a tough job in delivering news of a death. When a suicide or a fatal automobile accident occurs, it often falls to the police to inform family members.
 
Although officers can empathize with people suffering loss, they aren’t usually equipped to provide counseling. In addition, if the death occurs in a home, police may be preoccupied with performing an investigation.
 
Chaplains help to bridge this gap, providing spiritual and practical assistance if the citizen requests it.
 
“We can’t give our total attention to the family,” said Lee’s Summit Police Sgt. Rod Schaeffer. “They (chaplains) are good at counseling and are aware of arrangements that need to be done. They are able to provide comfort that we are not able to do. A lot of people don’t like to reach out to a guy with a badge and a gun.”
 
England said he and other chaplains have no canned pep talk or agenda when visiting people in time of loss.
 
“We’re basically there for comfort,” he said. “There is not a lot you can say. The less you say, the better you do. It is a ministry of presence. You are just there and seeing what need you can meet.”
 
Chaplains do offer to make phone calls for the family or assist with funeral arrangements. If family members have religious faith, England may offer to pray with them.
 
“It’s whatever we can do to make the situation go a little smoother for them,” he said.
 
Rev. Dave Moore, senior pastor of New Summit Presbyterian Church, has been called twice in the last year to assist officers when they were investigating the accidental deaths of infants. Although police care for the families involved, they are chiefly there to investigate.
 
“You have a very awkward, very tender situation,” Moore said. “But they have a job to do. They have to determine if a child has been (intentionally) hurt in any way.”
 
Moore maintained a constant presence with the families while they were grieving and explained the situation as additional relatives arrived.
 
“At each point in this stage, people want to see the baby but they can’t,” he said.
 
Officers let him know that they appreciate his presence in such situations.
 
“Typically it’s understated and very direct,” he said. “An officer will say, ‘Hey, thanks for being here.’”
 
Encouragement on the job
In addition to serving the community at large, chaplains also look out for the health of the men and women in blue.
 
“Police officers are not immune from being affected by what they see and do out in the street,” Conlee said. “Those kinds of things generate questions. Typically a police officer is not going to share (them) with another police officer. This is another outlet for them.”
 
Moore and England said they are motivated to serve the department because they recognize the challenges officers face.
 
“Their job is very, very stressful,” Moore said. “They tend to encounter the 2-5 percent of society that is the least fun to be with. They don’t know when they walk up to a car if (motorists) have a gun in the seat.”
 
England echoed that sentiment: “Police officers have so much stress in their daily lives. I want to help that out.”
 
Although chaplains serve on a weekly rotation, much of the work doesn’t fit neatly into a planner.
 
“They’re real good at dropping whatever is going on … if they can,” Schaeffer said.
 
Last year, Moore’s teenage daughter informed him of the suicide of a classmate.
 
Without being asked, Moore went to the department at the time of a shift change simply to be available. He said the topic and the conversations were awkward, but he hopes he was helpful.
 
“In those times, there is a quiet presence that says to the officer, ‘I know you have to do your professional duty, but it’s alright for you to be shocked by this,’” Moore said. “It’s not unusual to be shocked by humanity, to experience what some would call post-traumatic stress. It’s not wrong for you to have a sleepless night, to hug your wife and child a little tighter.”
 
For that kind of support, Schaeffer is thankful: “We have to go through some very traumatic things. Unfortunately the divorce rate is very high in this field.”
 
Conlee said he continuously hears praise from his staff for the work of the ministers.
 
“They’re just always there,” he said, “always supporting.”
 
The work of chaplains goes beyond crisis management to proactive support. Moore occasionally rides along with officers on patrol and has even played softball with them. To him, the work is all about strengthening the men and women behind the badge.
 
“I want the department to feel they are supported, uplifted and helped,” he said.
 
Mission accomplished.

Kids get a green thumb and earn some green at KCK organic farm

BY ROY HARRYMAN

This article originally appeared in The Kansas City Star.

Kansas City, Kan., students are getting a green thumb and pocketing some greenbacks at the same time.
 
A program launched by local businessmen is enabling children and young adults to plant, cultivate, harvest and sell organic vegetables.
 
All the activity starts at the 8.5-acre farm of Joe Jennings. Children from the University of the Arts and Logistics of Civilization, a private school at 1303 N. 36th St., visit twice a week. The students ranging in age from preschoolers to high school seniors come face to face with earth, plants, worms and weeds as they raise vegetables including beans, corn, squash, onions, kale, lettuce, collard greens and Swiss chard.
 
“They get their hands dirty and deal with nature,” said KeShaundra Hadley, an instructor at the school.
 
Once the produce is ready for harvest, students take turns selling it at Merriam Organic Market, 5740 Merriam Drive, which is open from 4 to 8 p.m. every Tuesday.
 
Some of the food is also used at the school’s affiliated Food for Life Supreme Diner as well as its supermarket and bakery. At the end of the growing season, students will use the proceeds for a special activity of their choice, Hadley said.
 
Jennings, the farmer, has hosted many student groups and said the experience teaches them not only agriculture but economics.
 
“They expose themselves to the farm and learn that money doesn’t grow on trees,” he said. “You have to learn how to work for it. The more exposure you get to various ways of life, the more intelligent you will be.”
 
The program, called From the Land to the Pan, was introduced by community organizer Richard Mabion, who shared the idea with the school this spring. Mabion, Jennings and Quindaro merchants Andy Ammons and Gary Wilson pay for the school’s booth space at the market.
 
Mabion thought of the idea two years ago. Then last summer he tried his hand at organic farming with Jennings. He sold the fruits of that labor at a Quindaro produce market. Having experienced the sweat and joy of farming himself, he joined with his friends to bring the concept to schoolchildren.
 
“What it’s doing is teaching students the whole process of where food comes from, what it’s like to get food on the table,” Mabion said. “They get a chance to see there are benefits to working out at the farm.”
 
Children from the school also visit the Kansas City Community Farm, 4223 Gibbs Road, on Fridays. There they get lessons in agriculture and more hands-on experience.
 
“They have been one of the best youth groups I’ve had come out to the farm,” said Katherine Kelly, a farmer and executive director of the Kansas City Center for Urban Agriculture. “The kids are really curious and engaged.”
 
Kelly said early experiences with organic farming can set the stage for a healthier lifestyle in an age of childhood obesity.
 
“Getting kids out to the farm and engaged in growing vegetables ... is putting them in contact with real food that is healthy for them and tastes good and has a story attached to it,” she said. “I think it helps them really appreciate it for life.”
 
Mabion, who has also introduced farming ideas at Wyandotte High School, said the program helps children learn self-sufficiency, gain pride in their neighborhood and experience community support.
 
“We’re all in this together,” he said.
 
He hopes to see other area students involved in hands-on farming.
 
Mabion said watching children work the land tugs at his heartstrings.
 
“To see kids doing that was just a sight to behold because you just don’t see kids do that nowadays,” he said. “It’s beautiful. It never ceases to amaze us.”
 
As for Jennings, he said his contribution is in helping to mold young minds.
 
“I’m just trying to participate to help train kids who will be the leaders of the country in the future,” he said. “It’s just a joy for me to be able to help someone because my slogan is, ‘Who have you helped today?’”
 

Bodybuilder Puts on Muscle the Old Fashioned Way

Carlos Varela, Flickr; Jeff Kirchoff, Lee's Summit Journal; Jerry, Flickr

Carlos Varela, Flickr; Jeff Kirchoff, Lee's Summit Journal; Jerry, Flickr

David Weaver eschews drugs in quest for world title. 

BY ROY HARRYMAN

This article originally appeared in the Lee's Summit Journal.

David Weaver is hard to miss.

At five feet, 11 inches, his height is average. It’s his 240 pounds of solid muscle that stand out.

“I didn’t realize you were that ripped, man,” says friend Josh Berry as he examines Weaver’s training photos. “You’re chest is shredded up. Dude, you’re legs are shredded big time.”

Weaver smiles. 

Berry isn’t the only one who has noticed the Lee’s Summit man’s chiseled physique. The judges at the 2005 Natural Southern States Classic in Liberty did, too, and made him the contest’s overall winner in April. 

That bodybuilding victory allowed him to qualify as a professional, which means the 24-year-old can not only win trophies, but cash when he flexes and poses on stage. His next competition, in May of 2006, is the Pro Natural American Championship in Austin, Texas. The show features $6,000 in prize money.

“Eventually I think you can make a living at it,” said Weaver, a security officer for the
Department of Energy in Kansas City. “I love to be an ambassador for my sport.”

Weaver makes clear, however, that there are really two worlds of bodybuilding. One is the drug-free version he participates in. Competition is strictly regulated by polygraph testing and urinalysis. 

These natural bodybuilders are healthy and impressive – even remarkable – but don’t look superhuman. In order to win, athletes must pass both tests, verifying that no steroids, diuretics, growth hormones or other illegal drugs have been used in the past seven years.

 
Then there’s the dark side of bodybuilding, where competition is laden with dangerous and illegal performance-enhancing drugs. Weaver said these athletes have much larger muscles, but risk suffering serious health problems.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services reports that steroid use has been associated with cardiovascular disease, including heart attacks and strokes, even for users under age 30. Steroids can also damage skin and lead to extreme mood swings known as “roid rage.”

It’s easy for people outside the bodybuilding world to assume that all competitors are steroid-injecting freaks.

“That’s the reason this sport has not gone mainstream,” Weaver said. “I wish people would know the difference between them.”

Although many high school and college students assume they have to use drugs to compete, Weaver’s convinced otherwise.

“You can look like this without taking all these steroids,” he said, referring to his training picture.

Weaver makes it clear that he isn’t out to criticize others. He just wants competition to be fair. Drug users habitually sneak into drug-free competitions and “trophy hunt in our shows,” he said.

Weaver, who hopes to see the sport attain Olympic status, said its popularity is increasing based on the growing number of competitors.

“People are becoming aware of it,” he said. “It’s a healthy lifestyle.”

Berry, 26, a weekend manager at Summit Fitness, was inspired to begin training by watching Weaver and attending a bodybuilding competition.

“David’s one of the people who got me into it,” Berry said. “I’ve only really been lifting for about a month now but I’ve been putting on some size. He’s always in here, so I watch and talk to him all the time. I’m always asking him what to do.

“David motivates me because he’s got a good workout effort. That’s the first time I’ve seen any of those pictures. He’s huge. That’s the shape I want to be in. He’s not ridiculously huge, but he’s big.”

‘I felt the pump’
Weaver first picked up weights as part of his football training in middle and high school.

“I felt the pump,” he said. “I’ve been addicted to it ever since.”

Although he aspired to professional sports and even played football in college, injuries dashed those dreams. A torn hip muscle sidelined his football career at Missouri Southern State College in 2000. The same injury flared up when he later tried out for the baseball team at Central Missouri State University.

After those setbacks, he decided to stick to weight training. When a friend mentioned that he had competed in a bodybuilding meet, Weaver was intrigued and decided to try it himself. In 2001, he took second place in the novice contest and won the collegiate division of the Kansas City Gold’s Classic. 

“I was hooked,” he said.

This year he broke through big time by winning his division of the Natural Missouri Physique contest and conquering the pro-qualifying Natural Southern States Classic.

The Drive
For Weaver, bodybuilding’s appeal is its emphasis on individual effort.

“You get what you put into it,” he said. “For me, that’s my drive. That’s what makes you stay hungry is seeing how far you can push the human body naturally. You can’t come in here one time or two times a week and get smashed on the weekends and skip meals. Persistence is the key. When you are in the weight room, it’s just you. One more repetition, one more set.”

Weaver puts in 90-minute workouts five to six times a week. He increases that to two hours daily in the 120 days before a contest. In the last two weeks before a show, he adds 45 minutes of cardiovascular exercise, twice daily.

In addition to the killer workouts, he follows a strict nutritional regimen. Weaver eats six to seven small meals a day because his body burns more calories that way. Those meals include plenty of chicken, turkey and eggs, beef, salmon and protein shakes. He also tans and shaves his arms, legs and chest year-round for the shows.

The limited meals and heavy exercise become exhausting in the last few weeks before a competition, with symptoms including nagging hunger pangs. 

The heavy exercise and restrictive diet leads to the loss of about 40 pounds, bringing his contest weight down to a ripped 200.

“That’s where it becomes really strenuous,” he said. “It is a healthy lifestyle but the last two or three weeks really takes a toll on your body. I don’t want to make it sound negative, but if you really want to be a competitor, that’s the kind of stuff you’ve got to go through.”

So why be a competitor?

“You don’t do it for the money or the trophies,” Weaver said. “You’ve got to stay hungry. There is always somebody at the top and you want to keep chasing them.”

Weaver’s aspirations aren’t small. He’d like to eventually win the natural equivalent of the Mr. Olympia contest, which is the World Bodybuilding Championship in New York City.

“If I’m going out there I want to try to win the whole thing,” he said.

For now, Weaver’s focused on his pro debut in May. Beyond that, he has several aspirations. One is to manage a gym. He has also considered becoming a Navy Seal because he’s drawn to the physical challenge of the job. In addition, he’d love to make a living as a bodybuilder.

At the root of it all is personal challenge, “to see how far I can naturally push my body to go. It’s just something I love,” he said. “It’s not how much money you have. It’s how much heart dedication you have. It’s all up to you.”

Urban organization seeks partnership, stakeholders to turn neighborhood around

BY ROY HARRYMAN

This article originally appeared in The Kansas City Star.
 
Nearly every day, Rev. Royal Scott Jr. gets reminded about why he’s part of a new organization boosting development in northeast Kansas City, Kan.
 
That reminder comes in the form of the shuttered Northeast Junior High School at Fourth Street and Troup Avenue. It’s a block from his Walnut Boulevard Missionary Baptist Church and causes him to recall better times.
 
 “It’s my inspiration,” he said. “I went to school there and I remember all the stores. I know what this community used to be like and I know the potential it has.”
 
Scott, who serves as the volunteer executive director of Northeast Economic Development Corp., Inc., said memories of the past motivate him to strive for a better future.
 
The organization’s goal is to bring new housing for low- and moderate-income families. Organizers hope that once new rooftops pop up, businesses will follow. Those, in turn, will create jobs.
 
The group is working to bring development to the area between I-635 on the west, State Avenue on the south and the Missouri River on the north and east.
 
Scott said the organization was formed because community leaders felt a targeted, grassroots effort was needed to revive the area. One symptom: Housing demolition permits within its boundaries outnumber building permits by a six-to-one ratio.
 
“We’re trying to turn that around,” Scott said. “The school teacher, the police officer, those people who make contributions to our community … deserve good housing.”
 
He said plenty of property is available for development, although many lots hold abandoned buildings that need removed.
 
“If that can be developed, we are excited about how that can improve the tax base,” Scott said.
 
The organization is seeking a formal agreement with the Unified Government that would allow it to use federal funds for urban development. Those funds could reduce the cost of new home construction, down payments and closing costs. The group will also work directly with developers who are interested in the area.
 
Northeast Economic Development Corp. has a 15-member board, consisting mostly of northeast Kansas City, Kan., residents. In addition, representatives of about 30 neighborhood groups will be invited to join an advisory board. General membership is open to anyone, regardless of city or state of residency, and helps fund the organization.
 
“The community has an opportunity to buy in to what we are trying to do,” Scott said.
 
Unified Government Mayor Joe Reardon endorses what he sees as the organization’s “very focused effort.” He said the most successful redevelopment projects involve partnerships between the Unified Government, neighborhoods and development organizations.
 
“They are on the right path and there is a lot of opportunity in that particular community for great things to happen,” he said.
 
Scott said that, although the work is only beginning, initial support has been strong. More than 300 people attended a fall kickoff and fund-raising event in September.
 
“The support has been overwhelming,” he said. “When we started, we didn’t realize how much support we were going to get.”
 
The group tentatively plans to open an office staffed by volunteers starting in November. It is also planning a grand opening event. Another goal is to raise funds to hire a staff member.
 
Scott hopes these incremental steps will pave the way to renewal in some of the city’s most historic neighborhoods.
 
“I know it’s a great challenge because the area has been neglected for so long,” he said.
“The need is great. We know we’re not going to see an immediate change and turnaround, even in our lifetime. We want to build a foundation.
 
“It’s a matter of pulling everybody in the community together. It’s a movement.”
 
For more information on the organization, call 913.269.5493 or e-mail nedci@yahoo.com.

Two sets of siblings serve together at same school

They've grown up, but not apart, even at work.

ROY HARRYMAN

This article originally appeared in The Kansas City Star.

Sibling rivalry is a thing of the past at Bingham Middle School – at least among two pairs of teachers.
 
Sisters Kay Douglas and Sandra Hinckley and brothers Corey and Kevin Lathrom work with one another daily – and seem to love every minute of it.
 
“We want to hire the best teachers we can,” said Principal Chuck Garner. “It happened that they were brothers and sisters.”
 
Each sibling also has other family connections. The sisters were preceded in the district by math teaching dad Sam Brock, who they taught together with at Bingham until he retired six years ago. He still volunteers in their classrooms on Fridays.
 
The Lathroms’ mom, Cathy, is a counselor at Christian Ott Elementary School.
 
Douglas, 34, and Hinckley, 31, make up the seventh grade math department and collaborate constantly. It starts on their shared commute, runs throughout the day and continues with phone calls in the evening. Math is even a topic at weekend family gatherings. If that’s not plenty of time together, they also attend the same church.
 
“Luckily our husbands are very understanding,” said Hinckley. “They never gripe about how much time we spend on the phone about school stuff.”
 
Douglas said their family relationship facilitates an unusual level of collaboration.
 
“The dinner conversations definitely wouldn’t happen (with a non-sibling),” she said. “Sandy and I are on the same lesson every single day. Our classes actually mirror each other, but of course our styles are different.”
 
Is there such a thing as too much togetherness?
 
“Sandy is my best friend, so I can’t ever imagine having too much of that good thing,” Douglas said.
 
Their father said the closeness started early on.
 
“From the very beginning we encouraged them to appreciate each other and understand how much more fun life is if everybody gets along,” said Brock. “The girls bought into that. It’s true that they are each other’s best friends.”
 
In addition to advancing math education, Hinckley said the family partnership helps model healthy relationships for students.
 
“It lets them see a positive family dynamic where siblings are getting along well together and there is respect between the parent and the children,” she said. “We are awfully excited when they can see us interact with our dad and each other.”
 
The sisters occasionally combine their classes, providing an opportunity for friendly teasing and swapping anecdotes. They also keep things light by occasionally dressing identically to see if the students notice. In addition, they sometimes use unconventional approaches, such as when their father plays the guitar and leads students in a song about mean, median and mode.
 
Despite their teamwork, each sister has her own approach.
 
Douglas, a high school valedictorian, is more driven and goal oriented. She sees the big picture. Hinckley is more laid back and spontaneous, while also tackling important details.
 
“We have fun every day,” Hinckley said. “I can tell you it’s a blast and a half to get to work with these kids and then to get to work with each other too.”
 
The Lathroms coach basketball together and also teach social studies, but for different grades.
 
Still, students often get to experience both brothers in class – just not at the same time. They may have Corey in sixth grade, then finish middle school with Kevin in grade eight. In addition, their mother is a counselor at a school that sends students to Bingham. This arrangement sometimes allows three Lathrom family members to have input into the life of a child.
 
Cathy Lathrom, the counselor, said some of her students refer to her sons as “cool” and “hot” and voice hope that they will have them as teachers.
 
She said it’s moving to watch them work together on the basketball court and as educators.
 
“It’s really very emotional for me to see them,” she said. “It’s very gratifying.”
 
The Lathroms don’t share curriculum like Douglas and Hinckley, but closely collaborate as coaches.
 
 “That’s where we really get to work together and have an impact directly on those kids together,” said Corey Lathrom.
 
Like the sisters, the two complement each other with different styles. Kevin, 26, is relaxed yet organized. Corey, 30, is intense and more competitive.
 
In basketball, Corey will often explain a concept while Kevin demonstrates.
 
“I can jump in and actually show them,” Kevin said. “We just bounce back off of each other.”
 
They talk basketball during the day and after practice. But their conversations aren’t all business. They see each other on weekends and, like the sisters, attend the same church.
 
 “As we’ve gotten older it seems we’ve gotten even closer as the years have gone on,” Corey said.
 
Kevin agreed.
 
“We’re a pretty close knit family,” he said. “It’s definitely not overkill, not like when we were younger and used to fight and get sick of each other.”
 
His advice on what it takes to work well with a sibling every day?
 
“Honesty, I’d say.”

Mixing motherhood and muscles

Flickr via Victor Casale, Jerry; Jeff Kirchoff via Lee's Summit Journal

Flickr via Victor Casale, Jerry; Jeff Kirchoff via Lee's Summit Journal

Ruthann Zentner, mother of three, wants to compete and win.

ROY HARRYMAN

This article originally appeared in the Lee’s Summit Journal.

Many aspire to grow old gracefully, but Ruthann Zentner stares age in the face and makes it flinch.
 
Zentner, 39, has won four bodybuilding and fitness contests – including Miss Kansas and Miss Missouri – and wants to compete in another after she turns 40 in order to show that it can be done.
 
She’s not a single woman with time to burn. Zentner, of Lee’s Summit, is a married mother of three daughters and directs the aerobics, cycling and water programs at Summit Fitness.
 
“I want to compete again,” Zentner said. “That’s my personal goal … to show other women that as long as you do what you are supposed to be doing – exercising, taking care of your body — you can do it.”
 
Zentner is hard to miss at the fitness center. Contest photos of her super-lean physique grace the wall next to the treadmills. She teaches and takes classes in yoga, strength training and aerobics each week.
 
Leah Morgan, 35, said Zentner is helping her lose the weight she put on during pregnancy and is an inspiration and role model.
 
“She’s got a family with three kids and works outside the home and still manages to live a really healthy lifestyle,” Morgan said. “She makes a really positive impact on the members and is someone you can model your own aspirations after.
 
“I’ve seen a lot of trainers who (only) stand and count. She really is like a cheerleader and gung ho and really drives me way past what I could do by myself.”
 
Getting in shape
 The pursuit of fitness didn’t hit Zentner in midlife. She’s been competing since 1988 when she won the heavyweight division of the Women of the Big 8 bodybuilding contest. She won her division of the Miss Kansas bodybuilding competition the next year.
 
“I really started because I just wanted to see a change in my body,” she said. “I was in that era of doing aerobics, being thin.”
 
When she added weight lifting to her routine, she kept the lean appearance but added upper body strength.
 
At first, she aspired only to compete without much thought of winning. But after enduring rigorous training and dieting, she changed her mind: “Forget that,” she said. “I want to win. I’m a competitor.”
 
As years have passed, she has found that exercise is a source of strength.
 
“It was my stress relief and it still is especially after having three kids,” she said.
 
After winning the Miss Missouri competition in 1998, Zentner left bodybuilding behind to begin competing in fitness contests. She said she has never used performance- enhancing drugs, but was bothered by the abundance of women bodybuilders taking them.
 
“There are hardly any women professional bodybuilders anymore,” she said. “The popularity of that sport has gone down because it’s so hard on your body, your heart. But the figure and fitness side of the industry has escalated. Most women just want to feel good in a swimming suit.”
 
Instead of using drugs, her prescription is “a lot of hard work and a lot of determination. It is years of lifting and taking care of my body.”
 
Muscularity is part of a fitness competition, but is only one aspect.
 
“You do a dance routine and have to show your flexibility and strength and are judged on your overall physique,” Zentner said. “It’s not a bodybuilding pageant, it’s more of a physique pageant. They don’t want you too muscular. It’s not a bikini contest either.”
 
After the birth of her second daughter in 1999, Zentner began working to lose the 60 pounds she put on during pregnancy. But she had a goal beyond that: winning a fitness competition by the time her daughter turned one.
 
Training for competition is grueling and requires sacrifice, said Bruce Gentry, her boss and former trainer.
 
“They have to be completely committed to it,” said Gentry, owner of Summit Fitness. “It takes a disciplined person because they are competing for trophies, not a million dollar reward.
 
“If you are going to compete and somebody offers you a piece of cake, you have to have the discipline to say no. If you cheat, you are the one on stage and there is no way to hide that.”
 
After her pregnancy, she increased her cardiovascular activity and added protein to her diet to speed her return to pre-baby shape. She followed doctor’s orders and waited until she received the green light to resume all-out training.
 
Zentner emphasizes that lifestyle changes – not fad diets – lead to fitness.
 
It took six months to lose her post-pregnancy weight. Then, about one year after her second daughter was born, she won the fitness contest of the Missouri Bodybuilding and Extreme Fitness show.
 
“I felt awesome,” she said.
 
Others at the gym were blown away, too, with comments like “amazing” and “omigosh.”
 
“One guy said, ‘Ruthann I (only) see you incredibly fit or pregnant,’” she said.
 
Although the idea of posing your physique for a crowd could seem vain, she said the competitions are not ego-driven.
 
“I compare being a fitness competitor to a person that runs a marathon, rides a bike for 150 miles or a triathlon athlete,” she said. “I love it and enjoy setting goals and pushing my body out of a comfort zone. A lot of people who compete are scared to death to be on stage. For me to be on stage is the reward. …You should be very proud of your body. I won’t call it ego. Am I confident? Yes.”
 
Zentner continued competing through 2000, when she won first place fitness and bodybuilding trophies in the Gold’s Natural Classic in Kansas City.
 
Inspiring Others
 As motivating as her personal accomplishments are, Zentner’s goal and job is to inspire others to stay fit.
 
“The neatest thing about people here is they’ve seen me have kids, exercise through the entire pregnancy and get my shape back,” she said. “I get to do what I love to do, which is to stay strong and be fit.”
 
She also wants to set an example of good health for her daughters.
 
“It’s a great conversation piece,” she said. “My (oldest) daughter’s friends are like, ‘Look at your mom’s abs or your mom’s whatever, your mom’s arms.’ I think that’s neat. That’s rewarding.”
 
Another factor motivating her passion for exercise is the premature death of her father, who died of a heart attack at age 62 in 1997. She finds it satisfying if she can inspire one person to take care of their body.
 
“It’s just perfect to make somebody’s heart stronger,” she said. “I think about my dad everyday. I use (the example of) my dad’s death to help encourage others stay fit, know the signs of a heart attack, eat healthy and exercise on a regular basis.”
 
The loss of her father has also has fueled her passion for the gym’s Silver Sneakers exercise program for seniors, which she said is the largest of its kind in Missouri.
 
Zentner said that although only some have the genetic gifting for fitness competition, everyone can improve their health and shape.
 
Although her athletic resume sounds intimidating, Zentner experiences the same aches and pains that affect everybody. She suffers from arthritis in her neck and, as a result, can no longer blast her shoulders with heavy weights. She has to work harder to stay flexible.
 
“I can’t lift my shoulders to where they burn like I used to,” she said.
 
But that doesn’t extinguish her desire to burn up the competition next year.
 
“I would be competing against girls in their 20s, so they definitely have a slight advantage,” Zentner said. “That’s OK though. If you don’t know what your goal is, you’re never going to reach it. You have to set those goals, challenge yourself and get out of the comfort zone.”