By Smarty Mom, Sarah Moody
Tricia Magee makes being a Smarty Mom look like a walk in the park. In addition to working full time as the law clerk for a Federal Judge, she finds a way to make time for her family, friends, neighbors and maintain an active lifestyle for herself.
Tricia is the mom to two beautiful and outgoing girls, Anne Louise (5) and Spencer (3). Tricia and her husband, Patrick, are active in their church and the Charlotte community. They have recently “gone PALEO” and their lifestyle change has been noticeably transforming, even rubbing off on their girls. Tricia balances all if this while keeping fit through her workouts several days each week at Fight Gone Mad in Southend.
I’m honored to have Smarty Mom Tricia as a dear friend and neighbor!
Tricia’s Smarty Mom Stats:
Mom of: Anne Louise (5) and Spencer (3 “and a half” – that half is very important to her)
Married to: My BFF Patrick for 9 years
Years in Charlotte: I plead the fifth. If I answer this, I’ll give away my age. I’ve lived here all my life, minus college in Chapel Hill, law school in Buies Creek, and an awesome 2 year stint in Raleigh right after law school.
Hometown: Charlotte. I was born at Presbyterian Hospital, which is the same hospital where my parents were born and why I chose it as the birthplace for our daughters. I’m a sucker for tradition.
Occupation: Career Law Clerk to a Federal District Judge
You’re an attorney in the Federal Court in Charlotte. How did you decide to practice law?
My dad was a lawyer, and he served as a judge for part of his career. When I was 12, I went to watch one of the trials he was presiding over. I was mesmerized by the attorneys and the trial process. I decided then that I wanted to go to law school to become a trial lawyer. Even though I don’t actually try cases in my current position as a law clerk, I have the privilege of working with trial attorneys every day and am still in awe of how well the jury process works.
Most interesting experience as an attorney?
A few years ago, I had the opportunity to meet Justice Clarence Thomas, who sits on the United States Supreme Court. He was in Charlotte for a portrait ceremony for a close friend of his who was a former judge here. Justice Thomas has a reputation for silence on the bench during oral arguments, when most justices are peppering the lawyers with difficult questions. Totally intimidating, right? We saw a completely different side of him that day – and I’ll never forget his contagious laugh. Instead of sitting in the private office reserved for him, Justice Thomas insisted on sitting at the little conference table in our kitchen and proceeded to entertain judges, clerks, interns and staff for hours. He told story after story, keeping us laughing for hours, and ended up inviting us to attend oral arguments at the Supreme Court as his guests. It was undoubtedly one of the most awesome days of my legal career.
Your typical day when a case is underway?
My family has always joked that my husband and I live an “insane lifestyle.” Since we seem to attract chaos, I try to be more organized than usual for court weeks. In all honesty, this doesn’t necessarily mean I do more planning and prepping, but instead more prioritizing. By prioritizing, I mean that my daily schedule when we are in court always includes time with my family (especially our family prayers before bed), time to cook healthy food, and time for me to exercise.
Family logistics are top priority. Mornings are often rushed at our house (my 3 and 5 year olds are teenagers in disguise – they HATE to wake up early), and we consider a good morning to be one where clothes were picked out the night before. My husband and I coordinate the drop-offs/pick-ups for the girls, who attend two different schools. The time talking to the girls while driving to school is special to me, especially because it is usually one-on-one, and it puts the rest of the day in perspective. Pick up is harder to predict, particularly if court runs late, so I put reminders on my husband’s calendar so he can plan his work day. I’m also an email-harasser when it gets close to pick-up time to see if he’s got it covered. We’re fortunate to have a part-time nanny who occasionally helps us, and my sister Caroline is “on call” for pick ups, too – everyone needs an Aunt CC in their life.
In prioritizing meals, I almost always pack my lunch because lunch breaks can range from 45 minutes to 5 minutes on some days. I try to keep some emergency (read: easy to cook) healthy food on hand (organic chicken hot dogs are a fave) to minimize the temptation for my husband to have pizza delivered if I’m running late. Oftentimes, I’m running into Whole Foods on my way home to grab a meat and veggie to cook for my husband and I to eat after the girls go to bed. You’d be amazed how quick and easy it is to grill a piece of salmon and throw together a spinach/strawberry/mushroom/almond salad. Way more healthy (and less expensive) than take-out. I take pictures of some of my better meals so that if I’m in need of inspiration as I’m walking out of the courthouse, I have a “photo bank” of some go-to ideas.
The more difficult thing to plan is time to exercise because my normal lunch break class is out of the question. So, when court is in session, I book those early 5:30 am classes at my fave gyms MADabolic and Hilliard Studio Method, where I know I will get a killer workout in a limited amount of time. Even though that early alarm clock can be the bane of my existence, taking one hour out of my day to exercise makes me a better wife, mom, employee, and overall happier person. I’m home with plenty of time to make coffee, lunches, breakfast, and possibly even have some “special time” with one of the girls who might wake up a little early. Usually, there is less rushing around on the mornings I get up early to work out – bonus for everyone! Generally, I am out the door by 7:30 to drop off my oldest at school. Then I’m in go-mode until I get home from work. The in-between is chaotic, but at the end of the day, prioritizing these few things makes for a less stressful life.
What does it mean to follow a PALEO diet?
I am by no means an expert, but for me, the main “rule” of Paleo is to eat real, unprocessed foods. My usual plate consists of 1/3 vegetable, 1/3 fruit (or different veggie), and 1/3 protein (organic chicken, grass-fed beef, local pork, fish, or my go-to in a time crunch – eggs). There is always a little healthy fat in there, too (did you really need an excuse to eat more avocado?). While eating Paleo means cutting out things like dairy, grains and legumes (beans), I get just as much—if not more—calcium, fiber, and carbohydrates from the variety of vegetables I eat. Sugar (other than those naturally found in fruits and vegetables) and soy are also off limits. Alcohol is also frowned upon, but the jury is still out on this rule for me. I have convinced myself that red wine and tequila are Paleo-friendly, so they are my drinks of choice.
How and when did you make your lifestyle change?
My story is probably typical. I used to be active (I’ve had my YMCA membership since high school, and I still refuse to let it go). Then I had two children in a short amount of time, and suddenly I felt like I had no time or energy to get to the gym. Or so I thought. Two years ago, my friend Mary Margaret encouraged me to try this new gym in South End called MADabolic. Mary Margaret is in great shape, and I’m a sucker for a new client special, so I went . . . and was hooked. In forty-five minutes, I had a better workout than if I had spent an hour on the elliptical and additional time lifting weights. I’m all about efficiency, so this workout became my routine a few days a week during my lunch break or occasionally after work. As I gained strength and energy, I noticed how the food I ate impacted my body and not just how I looked. I cut out gluten, not necessarily to lose weight, but more to see if I wouldn’t feel so terrible after I ate. Instead of a sandwich, I ate salads for lunch, and I immediately noticed a difference in my afternoon energy levels at work. Then, I heard about the Paleo Diet from some friends at the gym. I was totally skeptical, but at the same time, pretty clueless about it. I decided to take a class from someone who was not only a success story but also extremely educated on diet and nutrition. That class was life-changing for me.
Did any one person influence you?
Hands down, Cristina Gillespie has been the biggest influence in how I see, buy, and cook food. In early 2013, my husband and I took one of her “28tolife” seminars at MADabolic, where she is the head trainer. Her explanation of the impact of processed foods on our bodies simply made sense to us. I thought we ate fairly healthy meals (minimally-processed foods and focusing on whole grains), but we made an immediate decision to cut out certain foods for 28 days. I had no idea how much cheese I ate until I had to plan meals without it. Four weeks later, I not only felt better, but I started to see a difference in how I looked. And that cheese dip? It no longer tasted good to me. SHOCKING. Since then, Cristina has not only proved to be an invaluable resource for me (I ask A LOT of questions), but she is an inspiration, as well. She has a family with young kids, a career, a jam-packed schedule, and still manages the time to be active and make healthy meals for her family. I also consider her a friend, which is how I was able to trick her into giving me her cell phone number (comes in handy for those emergency help-I’m-standing-in-the-grocery-store questions!). Cristina has a realistic approach to eating real food, recognizing that it is difficult to adhere to the Paleo diet 100% of the time. Because of that, I’m comfortable not eating Paleo all the time. If you invite me over for dinner, I’ll eat whatever you’re cooking, and I just can’t resist the pasta at Stagioni. With this approach, I’ve been able to maintain following the Paleo diet at least 80-90% of the time for almost two years now. While the obvious benefit has been losing over 30 pounds, more importantly, I simply feel better, and I never feel like I’m depriving myself of anything.
Do your kids/husband follow PALEO?
I would describe my family as paleo-ish. They’re stuck with what I cook for dinner, which is almost always paleo-inspired. They’re also stuck with what I buy at the grocery store, which means no processed snacks to munch on before dinner. It is true that if you keep healthy food in your house, you’ll eat better. My girls now request raw cashews, pistachios, or fruit for a snack. They’ll help me make coconut chicken nuggets for dinner, and they LOVE breakfast for dinner (calling it a “pajama party” also helps . . . it’s all in the marketing, right?). The girls know they should eat a protein and veggie at every meal, and Anne Louise is a champ at playing the “Is this a real food” game. Rotisserie chicken and frozen organic broccoli are staples during the work week, though there aren’t many other green veggies the girls will eat.
That’s not to say we may or may not have eaten a bag or three of Doritos on our recent beach trip, and sometimes you will find gluten-free pizza or fish sticks on our table . . . sometimes even (gasp) delivery pizza. While I choose to follow a more strict approach for myself, I also want to teach the girls that it’s all about moderation. Treats are perfectly fine on occasion . . . sometimes those “occasions” include busy days when you have to choose between cooking a dinner from scratch or getting your kids in bed at a decent time. My goal is for my family to know what makes a healthy plate, so they can make healthy, real food choices on their own.
Favorite food to cook?
I have always enjoyed cooking. My sister Joan and I used to have weekly dinner parties to cook for our friends in college. My husband jokes that after a long day at work, I like to “relax” by getting in the kitchen and cooking dinner. Little does he know, it is also about the wine that I’m sipping while I cook. Vegetables are my favorite food to cook because there are a million ways to prepare them, and I can usually find a delicious way to cook veggies that my family might initially reject (bacon made my husband a brussel sprouts fan).
In full disclosure, I should probably make a disclaimer about the following recipe. My mom and sister Joan (who went to culinary school after graduating from UNC) inspire me, but we come from a long line of non-recipe followers. It’s more “a little of this, a little of that,” and “don’t be afraid to experiment.” Thus, I think I’m a pretty good cook, but I’m terrible with creating recipes because I rarely measure things. Here’s a recipe for my husband’s favorite thing I cook, which is a pesto that can make chicken or fish a little “fancier” . . . plus, you’re getting a full serving of a dark, leafy green vegetable with this topping!
Paleo Pesto (no measuring cups needed) –
2 handfuls of arugula (you could also use raw spinach or kale)
1 handful of raw nuts (I prefer cashews, almonds or walnuts)
1 garlic clove (or 1 tsp of minced garlic if you like the jarred stuff)
Juice of half a lemon
Pinch of sea salt
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Blend all of the ingredients (except the olive oil) together – I use a Cuisinart food processor. Slowly add in olive oil until it reaches the desired consistency. Add this to the top of grilled or broiled chicken or fish. This makes enough pesto for two or three servings, depending on your portions, so sometimes I double this. If we have leftovers, I’ll make chicken salad using this pesto and half an avocado instead of mayo.
What is something that most people don’t know about you?
I was on a competitive jump rope team in 6th grade. Shout out to the Queen City Skippers!!
Favorite weekend activity to do as a family in Charlotte?
We love being outside, and summer is perfect for spending the day at our neighborhood pool, the Whitewater Center, or Lake Norman. We recently spent a day walking around uptown Charlotte. There was no agenda. We started with lunch at Alexander Michael’s and decided to take a stroll just because it was a beautiful Saturday. We had a blast playing in the parks, seeing the tall buildings, and enjoying our center city for several hours. The girls see the buildings all the time and can spot uptown Charlotte from miles away, so it was nice to soak it all in up close.
Favorite place in Charlotte for a date night?
Soul Gastrolounge. Best cocktails (and pork belly tacos) in town. And with a no-reservations policy, the guaranteed wait is the perfect time for us to catch up.
I’m a news junkie and check the Charlotte Observer and Drudge Report websites multiple times a day . . . and by “check,” I mean skim the headlines so I can attempt to stay up on current events. My fave blog sites are www.wellandgoodnyc.com (wish there was a local version) and www.nomnompaleo.com (she is hysterical, and the recipes are fantastic).
Funniest thing your kids have ever said to you?
My girls’ use of music lyrics always cracks me up. My daughter Spencer singing “I’m the man” in the grocery store is hilarious, but the following conversation was a gut check that 3 year olds pay attention to the words.
Spencer: “I’m going to work.”
Me: “Where do you work?”
Spencer: “Mellow Mushroom”
Me: “What do you do there?”
Spencer: “Eat pizza”
Me: “You get paid to eat pizza? How much?”
Spencer “Twenty dollars in my pocket”
Lululemon. While these clothes are a splurge, I find them to be SUPER comfortable, and I love it when I find something that is flattering for my body type. I’m still holding out for them to start making blazers and skirts. Lulu – if you’re listening, your stock prices will go up if you start making work suits. Trust me.
Are you involved with an organization here in Charlotte?
Since 1926, the Junior League of Charlotte has supported the Charlotte non-profit community. I originally joined the JLC to volunteer in the community and help others, but in doing so, I’ve been fortunate to make some very good friends and network with a diverse group of women in Charlotte. In addition to offering financial support, the JLC provides trained volunteers for so many incredible non-profit agencies in the Charlotte area. The projects and volunteer opportunities the JLC provides are making a huge impact not only in the communities we serve, but also in the lives of the volunteers. Last year, the JLC embarked on its Cornerstone Project at Reid Park Academy. Through the Cornerstone Project, the JLC has committed financial and volunteer resources to support Charlotte’s first wrap-around community school model. I wasn’t initially sure what the wrap-around community school model meant, but I learned that it is an innovative program to coordinate community-based services and resources for children and their families in an effort to support their academic, social, emotional, physical and mental needs. As a JLC member, it is exciting to be part of this collaborative program that helps the Reid Park Academy families both in and outside of the classroom.