Wednesday, 24 February 2016 21:57

Embracing the Big 50

By Amy Meadows

Fifty years. Five decades. A semicentennial. A half-century. If it sounds like a lot of time, that's because it is. (It's actually 18,250 days.) But that isn't necessarily a bad thing. In fact, there's a reason the fiftieth year is often called the Jubilee Year. Because it's amazing! Just ask these local quinquagenarians, who have found that turning 50—and being in their 50s—brings a kind of peace and completeness that only comes with this special time of life. What's more, they not only look and feel their best right now, but they also have found a distinctive perspective that seems to accompany this incredible milestone birthday. Their outlooks are inspiring and uplifting, and they'll undoubtedly make you look forward to the day when your own cake holds 50 (or more) candles.

BSA 0316 Over50 LyngosHeadshotShe'll Always Have Paris
Lisa Lyngos

When Lisa Lyngos turned 50, she made a very important declaration. "I have made a conscious decision to add more experiences to my life now," she begins. "We know that, as we age, our body breaks down, and we are not able to do all the things we were able to do when we were younger. But I feel very fit and healthy. So with this recognition, new excitement and confidence, I don't want to wait until I'm older and retired [for my] 'future to-do list.' I want to do them now!"

Lyngos, now 53, who founded premier matchmaking service Single Atlanta with her twin sister, Leisha Murphy, has crafted her lifestyle to allow for more adventures than she ever thought possible. In fact, when they turned 50, the sisters celebrated by spending a month in Europe, wandering through France, jet-setting to Barcelona and spending 10 days in Paris to drink champagne and toast their shared golden year. "Celebrate this time," she advises. "Get excited about life because you've earned it."

BSA-0316 Over50 LyngosEiffelTowerShe also encourages others—and particularly women—to enjoy every aspect of being in their 50s. "My biggest surprise has been how comfortable and confident I am," she reveals. "I feel like so many women struggle all their life [questioning]: Are we pretty enough? Are we thin enough? Can we be successful in our career and still be good mothers and wives? The usual list. These are real concerns of everyday women." However, by focusing on the experiences she has ahead of her, Lyngos has been able to get out of that headspace and appreciate what 50 and beyond has to offer. "The journey has so much possibility because of life experience and wisdom," she says. "Approach new challenges with less fear."

Actually, Lyngos didn't face 50 with fear at all. She embraced it—and she doesn't regret a moment of it. "I was delighted," she concludes. "It just seemed crazy that I was turning the big 5-OH! Now, my number-one goal is to experience life more fully."

BSA 0316 Big50 YatesFamilyHikeA Balancing Act
Scott Yates

Scott Yates had a very straightforward way of looking at turning 50, which he did in July of 2015. "It is just another year in your life," he observes. After going on a celebratory fishing trip with three college friends, he planned to continue pursuing balance. "When you turn 50, you should strive for appropriate balance, just as you would in your 20s, 30s, 40s and 60s. The only difference is that the priorities in that balance change over time."

BSA 0316 Big50 YatesCoachingAs a young adult, Yates' priorities focused primarily on his career, first as an officer in the U.S. Navy and then as an entrepreneur in the management and consulting space. When he married his wife, Elizabeth, in 2003 and they began a family—which now consists of three beautiful children, ages 11, 10 and 8—his priorities began to shift. "I was seeking a new kind of balance that wasn't just for me. It was for my family," he says. So Yates, who has found success as a shareholder with GGG Partners, LLC, worked to create a more flexible schedule in order to spend time with his children. He also found a deeper connection with his spirituality—something that led him to find ways to give back to his community. Nearly two years ago, he helped establish Atlanta Classical Academy, a K-12, open-enrollment, tuition-free public charter school that currently serves more than 500 students. He muses, "It's the best unpaid job I've ever had."

Moving seamlessly into his fifth decade, he recognizes the challenge and choices necessary to keep centered and focused. And he has the wisdom, appreciation, patience and perspective to do just that. "Balance simply means different things in different phases of your life," he notes. "I will always focus on continuous improvement and learning in general, but the goals of such are more aligned with visions of future conversations with grandchildren than on net worth," he concludes. "I cannot say there was anything magical about turning 50 in my thoughts and perceptions. I just know that I love being a husband and a father, and I look forward to trying new things, learning more and doing things that are good for society."

BSA 0316 BIG50 HollyBeth HeadshotEverything Happens for a Reason
HollyBeth Anderson

By the time HollyBeth Anderson turned 50, she had traveled to more than 50 countries around the world. She worked in mergers and acquisitions, and her high-profile career had her jetting across the globe.

But things changed unexpectedly when she reached her milestone birthday. Within that year, her international contract was not renewed and she faced personal issues with her parents' health. She received an offer to teach at a prestigious university, but instead decided to do something that she always had in the back of her mind: start her own business.

"I decided to take my hobby and start a business," Anderson says of HollyBeth Organics, a company that began with the eye cream she personally developed and has then expanded into a full line of organic, effective, plant-based skincare products. Even though when she set out many of her colleagues in the industry were younger than she, Anderson quickly realized that she had a great advantage. "There are more people over 50 starting businesses—more than any other group. We do have this entrepreneurial spirit," she reveals. "And this has become a very interesting time of life for me."

While focusing on growing her business, which she hopes to turn into a global brand, Anderson ultimately found herself changing and discovered things that she never would have appreciated during her 40s, particularly in terms of her appearance. She explains, "I always used to be dressed to the hilt. I wore so much jewelry, and I was so into brand names. I dress much more comfortably now. And I don't need all the accoutrements. It's just a matter of being okay with yourself."

Anderson also reflects on the exciting life she had lived up until the age of 50. "I like to think of myself as a pioneer. I did things like live and work in South America, doing things that [at the time] only men would have done," she says. Of course, when her international career ended, she came to a realization. "I woke up and thought, 'I'm 50. I'm not married, and I'm not a grandmother.' I didn't think I'd be where I was. People do a lot of planning and think they'll do certain things by this or that date. But I realized that when you turn 50, you just become much more comfortable with yourself. Everything happens for a reason."

For Anderson, the challenges she faced after reaching the half-century mark all led to the creation of her now burgeoning business. And she's reveling in the fact that she has so much ahead of her. "I'm 58, and this is going to be my year," she says. "I'm now capable of being more self confident. I learned that you have to follow your gut. It has never failed me. And life really does begin at 50."

DianeAlexanderWind It Up
Diane Alexander, MD, FACS

While some people may think that turning 50 means life has to slow down, Diane Alexander has the opposite opinion. "Your life is not over at 50," she says with a laugh. "This is the time to wind up, not down! It's time to look forward, not backward."

Her perspective makes sense, as the well-known cosmetic surgeon, now 55, has never considered herself to be "a number person." Over the years, she built a highly successful career, including co-founding Artisan Plastic Surgery, the first all-woman-physician plastic surgery practice in Atlanta. She also has a wonderful marriage and two beautiful daughters, ages 23 and 22. So when 50 came around, she was just too busy to worry about it. "There are a lot of societal thoughts and pressure about turning 50, but I don't really invest much time in thinking about things like that," she notes. "I understand it. For many women, it's the first time you start seeing yourself age and your body changing. It can be scary. We've spent four decades creating who we are. We've established our careers and our relationships with our significant others, our children and our communities. Then all of a sudden we turn 50, and we're confronted with [asking] if that's who you want to be."

For Alexander, the answer is a resounding yes—especially when seeing that her 50s gave her unexpected independence. With her children grown, she was able to focus more on herself, including her physical health. In her late 40s, she began to exercise regularly, starting with yoga, then adding personal training and spin classes. By her early 50s, she was doing triathlons and half marathons. "I've kicked it up a lot. And I didn't know I could feel this good," she says. "I'm eternally optimistic for me to be stronger, fitter and better. I'm not slowing down. The 50s are great. It's actually my favorite decade. And it makes me sad to see the crisis that so many women feel about this age."

Alexander enjoys serving as a role model of sorts for her patients by showing them that being in your 50s can be incredible. "The 50s don't suck," she muses. "Don't listen to what's being said out there. It's a great decade. So listen to your heart and pursue your dreams. Go out there and get them. Now you get to take some time for yourself. You can keep growing and building. And that is really amazing."

Rachel Mauro50 Is the New 30
Rachel and Mauro Moncayo

When Rachel and Mauro Moncayo think about the pictures they've seen of their grandparents at age 50, they don't relate to them at all. "They looked and acted like grandparents before they even had married children," they say. "But people from our generation have the opportunity, the knowledge and the tools to take care of our bodies proactively."

That's what Rachel, 53, and Mauro, 56, have done since they were actually in their 30s. Together, they made a choice to live consciously and truly take care of their bodies. "Somewhat to our surprise, in many ways, we feel younger and more vibrant since we turned 50 than when we actually were at 30," Rachel notes. "We've actually gotten stronger and better mentally and physically. We've always kept our minds and hearts young while working proactively to maintain strong, active bodies. So hitting the '50 milestone' didn't end up feeling milestone-like at all. Mauro always reminds us that 50 is the new 30."

The husband-and-wife team clearly practice what they preach. When Mauro reached 50 (and Rachel was approaching 50), they left their 25-year corporate careers and reinvented themselves by opening Brookhaven Fitness Studio, which features the customized Move-Nourish-Mind® program for health and wellness. They have dedicated themselves to helping others along on their own fitness and wellness journeys, all while continuing to care for themselves and pursue their passions.

"One of the sexiest things that came with 50 for us was newfound confidence to try new things that would engage our passion and purpose in life, without us being concerned about what others might think. Instead, we focused on enriching our own lives," they remark. Following that path has allowed the couple to gain some powerful insight: "If you live purposefully and passionately and honor your body, then 50 will be another year of experience to honor and be grateful."

The Moncayos are rather poetic about the aging experience. "We think of it [50] as a fine bottle of wine," they conclude. "We've developed much depth and complexity but show up in the world with a vibrant punch of fresh flavor. Having bodies that look and feel and move vibrantly, coupled with the wisdom and perspective gained with the years, is the best scenario we could wish for. And we have it!"

BSA 0316 MarianneBakerHeadshot50 Is Fit and Fabulous
Marianne Baker

For Marianne Baker, 50 and fitness go hand-in-hand. As the 56-year-old director of group exercise for the Concourse Athletic Club, she knows of what she speaks.

"Turning 50 helped me understand the importance of a healthy lifestyle both inside and out," Baker says. "Fitness and nutrition are the key to a healthy body. If your body is healthy on the inside, it will show on the outside. It's never too late to begin a healthy journey."

Baker once believed that her fifth decade would be about slowing down and eventually retiring. However, she could not have been more wrong. In fact, she is busier than ever, as she not only maintains her position with the Concourse Athletic Club, but also works as a certified exercise leader, personal trainer and choreographer. She also spends time on philanthropic interests, such as raising awareness for the Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure and a variety of other groups and events.

"I have no intention of winding down. My children are grown, and now is my time to achieve and grow," she states. "I feel more confident, more satisfied and fitter than ever. At 50, you have a better understanding of yourself and what you want. In your 50s, personal growth is at its best."

Today, Baker wants to help others in their 50s to embrace their age—not fear or dread it. She does it by being a fit and healthy role model while helping people of all ages reach their own fitness goals. "Turning 50 is not a game changer. Enjoy it, embrace it and defy what society says about it," she advises. "Age, for the most part, is between your ears. Love who you are today, and if there is something you want to change, do it! Don't use your age as an excuse. Now is your time!"



Wednesday, 24 February 2016 21:20

Jen Hidinger

By Laura Scholz

When you are young and in love and have your entire lives ahead of you, you don’t expect your marriage vows—for better, for worse, in sickness and in health—to be tested for a very long time.

Fate was not so kind to Jen Hidinger and her husband, Ryan. On December 21, 2012—the day ancient Mayans predicted the world would end—he was delivered a diagnosis that was the end of their world as they knew it. The diagnosis? Gallbladder cancer. Stage 4. Ryan was 35. Jen? Only 30. The couple had been married seven years and together since Jen was 17.

At the time, Ryan served as chef at Muss & Turner’s after stints at local restaurants like Bacchanalia and Floataway Café. He and Jen ran a popular supper club (with an almost cult-like following) called Staplehouse out of their Grant Park home and dreamt of opening their own restaurant one day. Ryan had recently returned from a trip to New York City  and had come down with the stomach flu. He recovered, but stomach pain and cramping lingered in his abdomen for ten days. He scheduled an ultrasound with his family physician.

“I just vividly remember the placement of the chairs, the pale yellow walls of this small doctor’s office, these old vinyl countertops and a black Dell computer screen sitting to our right. Ryan and I were holding hands waiting for the doctor to give us some information. We were not even remotely prepared for the information that we got,” Jen recalls.

Photo-1Shock and Fear

The diagnosis of stage 4 cancer was devastating, and the prognosis was even more chilling. The cancer had spread to 90 percent of Ryan’s liver and a portion of his lungs. He was given  less than a five percent chance of survival and only six months to live.

“I didn’t really even take it in, at least not in its full reality, until after he passed away [in January 2014]. I was only 30, and I had my entire life ready and planned out with him. We were going to open up this restaurant, and it was going to be our first child, and then we were going to have babies and raise them around the restaurant. These were things we talked about for so long, since I was a senior in high school, and they were just right out of arm’s reach at that point.”

Those dreams were immediately put on hold as the couple turned their attention to Ryan’s treatment and care. He went through several rounds of chemo, and the couple radically changed their eating habits, following a mostly Paleo diet—unusual for a chef, especially one known for his fondness for chicken wings and gummy bears.

“Cancer Treatment Centers of America, where Ryan was treated, is huge on self-healing and the reduction of the risk of cancer-treatment drugs on the body,” explained Jen. “We used a lot of natural remedies like Melatonin and Vitamin C. Ryan rarely wanted pain medications.”

Meanwhile, the community rallied around the Hidingers, organizing a fundraiser called Team Hidi shortly after Ryan’s diagnosis and raising over $250,000 for the couple’s financial needs in a single night. Jen still feels humbled about that night, saying, “I remember standing on that stage [at King Plow] during the event and being surrounding by almost 1,000 people who were there just for us, cheering for us, donating money to us, just out of selfless love and devotion to a couple. It was really a profound moment of responsibility, to take that support for what it’s worth, accept it and let it flood over you. Because it’s healing, and it can push you forward. More than just the financial support ... the people that were cheering us on were completely inspiring and motivating to us. And because of that selfless desire to flood our lives with good, we wanted it to flood someone else’s life.”

An Outpouring of Love

That flood of generosity has washed over 365 lives and counting. That’s the number of lives The Giving Kitchen (TGK) has impacted in the two years since Ryan’s passing.

Overwhelmed and grateful for the peace of mind given to them by the community in their time of need, Ryan and Jen co-founded TGK, a nonprofit organization that supports Atlanta restaurant workers in times of unanticipated crisis. With an average grant of $1,500 to qualified applicants who need assistance with everything from basic living expenses after an accident or house fire to care-related expenses for their own illness or that of a loved one, TGK has donated more than $600,000 to Atlanta restaurant workers. The initial transformative Team Hidi event has become an annual celebration of life, now in its fourth year and raising nearly $1 million so far in support of one couple helped in their time in need.

While not involved in the day-to-day operations of TGK, Jen serves as its spokesperson, sharing her story across the country. “Sharing my story has really  helped me heal,” she professes. “For a friend or a  stranger to be able to relate to my story, to be able to be more open about death or cancer or whatever struggles, it has really kept me evolving and progressing and growing and learning and has done leaps and bounds for my own mental well-being.”

Photo-2A New Purpose

Jen has found new understanding of her life and purpose by evaluating the lessons of this journey upon which she was so suddenly placed. “I’ve learned more about myself after Ryan died than I ever had before—ever. We were together for such a long time and at such a young age and such developmental years, throughout our 20s. That was a majority of what I knew. And I was in love with it. And to learn who I am, and am becoming still, after [his death] was and is dark and really difficult.”

How did she get through it and begin to think about the unthinkable? “I once read something while Ryan was going through treatment about just getting out of bed and making the bed. If you can do that one simple thing, that one step, you can keep adding other steps. It really resonated. I deemed it my year of ‘yes.’ I basically said ‘yes’ to anything. And my only disclaimer to very close friends was that my answer to going out will be ‘yes’, but if I cancel because I can’t physically get out of bed, just be okay with that.” 

Waking Up Again

Those baby steps toward healing slowly gained momentum. She found her stride. She picked up the pace and quite literally started running.

“I remember getting out of bed in early 2013 and going for a walk. I sobbed the entire way, just releasing the emotions, and I got a pull to move my feet faster,” she says. “I walked some, jogged some, walked again, and then it eventually turned into less walk and more run. I didn’t force it. I didn’t  
put myself on a schedule. I didn’t do it for any reason other than I am going to get up. And then it became, ‘I want to get up, I want to go for a run.’”

Jen ran her first 5K in August of 2014, crossing the finish line at a neighborhood race in just under 33 minutes—running the whole time. “One of my biggest victories of 2014 was being able to run that first 5K and to finish it strong. I can’t even describe what that challenge and victory felt like for me, this individual who has been through hell and back.”

A Dream Comes True

And that dream of a restaurant? It became a reality in September 2015, when Staplehouse opened its doors on Edgewood Avenue in the Old Fourth Ward. The restaurant is a true family affair, with Jen as business manager; Ryan’s sister, Kara Hidinger, as general manager; and Kara’s husband, Ryan Smith, formerly of Empire State South, cooking in the kitchen—and to rave reviews. With a stunning design from renowned local firm Square Feet Studio, the dining room features 40 seats at mostly communal tables, a cozy bar and a covered patio overlooking a small pond and secondary backyard kitchen. With seasonal a la carte and five-course chef’s tasting menus, Staplehouse is the casual neighborhood restaurant Ryan wanted, and it also provides a unique funding model for his other legacy, The Giving Kitchen.

Staplehouse is actually a for-profit subsidiary of TGK—all after-tax profits from the restaurant benefit the nonprofit, keeping the cycle going—serving sustenance far beyond the tables of the restaurant and supporting the culinary community-at-large for years to come. In addition to Team Hidi, TGK partners with Sweetwater Brewing Company for the annual release of “Second Helping,” a beer Ryan helped to develop before his passing, and is the beneficiary of dozens of local events ranging from Atlanta Eats Live to the Atlanta Cheese Festival.

SB1An Open Heart

As for Jen, she’s still running—and running the restaurant, while also being a doting aunt to Kara and Ryan Smith’s daughter and mom to three dogs and counting. “I would have 237 dogs if I could. I’m rather a large sap when it comes to dogs—and Publix commercials.”

She finds joy in her community and in meaningful relationships with those in it.

“When you really just allow yourself to be open to people, places, hobbies, running … to life—sickness, health and even devastation—you appreciate the beauty of love so much better. I truly believe that the more you understand what the pain and heartache feel like, the more you appreciate the other side of it.” And, perhaps, serve up a little more of the peace for which we all seem to hunger.


Wednesday, 24 February 2016 16:10

March 2016 - Digital Issue

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February 2016 - Digital Issue

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