Thursday, November 10, 2011

November Book Review: Born to Run

I once considered myself to be fairly knowledgable in the sport of running. I come from a family of runners, run almost every day and have participated in a full marathon and too many half marathons to try to count. People often come to me for advice on training, injuries, races and gear, and until a few weeks ago, I thought I had sufficient answers. Few books have challenged me, to change my preconceived ideas about something I once considered an area of "expertise", but my ideas about running immediately changed when I was given a copy of Born to Run by my father. An avid runner himself, he told me this book would change my life, and indeed it has.

Written by journalist and oft-injured runner Christopher McDougal, the book narrates his journey as he follows a tribe of mysterious, almost reclusive runners known as the Tarahumara. Living in some of the harshest conditions in the mountains of central Mexico, the Tarahumara practice running techniques that allow them to run hundreds of miles without rest or injury, making them arguably the best ultra-runners in the world. During the course of the book, you are introduced to numerous characters, both in the crazy world of ultra-marathons and also within this unknown tribe, that keep you turning the pages. You honestly can't make these people up and it is this human element that really makes the soul of this book.  

Using a mix of medicine, evolutionary and genetic science and common sense observations, the book explains that humans are in fact built to run. It is how we have existed for thousands of years and contrary to popular belief, it will not hurt your knees, give you arthritis, or plague you with injuries. In all actuality, it is the opposite of running (or a sedentary lifestyle) that will cause these things. Everything we have come to know about modern-day running, mainly the footwear we choose, is completely inaccurate, and I argue anyone to disagree with these findings after having finished Born to Run.

This book was one of the most entertaining and informative books I've read in a long time and it took me back to my childhood, and reminded me of why I enjoy running. Like being 6 years old on the playground were all of the activities we played involved going from one place to the other at the highest speed possible. It sounds crazy to most people, but I've always looked at a good, long run as a form of mediation. I don't have to think about what I'm doing and my mind can fall asleep while my body does the rest.  Now, even more than ever, I look forward to every mile, and I am beyond inspired to make running even more a part of my daily routine. Though I may leave the 50 milers to the Tarahumara. For now. 

Amazing Music Video

This is probably the coolest video I've seen in a long, long while. The background for Kina Grannis' music video for her single, In Your Arms is made entirely out of jelly beans. It took 2 years and 288,000 Jelly Belly's to produce. So cool.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

September Book Review: Banksy Wall and Piece

Graffiti gets a bad rap. And for the most part, I agree. The majority of the street "art" we see around us everyday is being done by amateurs without a purpose or message who simply want to put their ridiculous, illegible tag up for the world to see, with the hopes that they can become local graffiti celebrities. That, my friends, is not art.
Then you get the true street artists. The ones who can change the side of a building into a piece of art. Who can put up the most amazing mural you've ever seen using spray paint. The ones who actually make you stop and think about what you're seeing before you. That, I do believe, is art.

When it comes to street artists, no one is more respected or well known than Banksy. Although no one knows his real identity (street art is, after all, illegal) he has grown in popularity, first in the UK and Europe, and now here in the US. Using life-size stencils and paint, he is known for his controversial statements on political and social norms. He is truly one of my artistic heroes. He uses humor to take risks and force people to question authority and society; something I hope my photography will one day do as well. Most of his work has a message, some of it is just clever. A lot of people consider him to be a menace or a prankster, but his goal is simply to create art for the people. There's no admission fee, no lines, no hype. You either like it or you don't, but either way its democratic in that anyone, at any time can view it just by walking down the street.

My boyfriend received the coffee table book Banksy: Wall and Piece as a gift about a year ago and it wasn't until recently that I picked it up to see what was inside. I was familiar with Banksy before this, but after reading his book and gaining a better understanding of his point of view and the background behind some of his work (including how long some of the pieces stayed up...very interesting) I fell in love. Even if you don't have an interest in street art, or consider it to be more vandalism than art, I urge you to flip through it if you get the chance. At the very least I promise you will be entertained and amused by what you see. Most of his work is stencils, some of it are build-outs. Its pretty impressive the lengths he goes for some of his installations. Here are a few of my favorites:

Pictures from Banksy Unmasked 

Thursday, July 14, 2011

St. Agatha

As some of you know, my parents suffered a house fire in the home I grew up in last March. They are in the midst of the rebuilding process now, and are still sorting through what that remains of our belongings.

A few nights ago, they were cleaning out a portion of our backyard garden where there was quite of bit of debris when my dad noticed a small silver medallion amongst the ashes, almost completely untouched by fire. When they picked it up and cleaned the face of it, they were amazed to find that it was a St. Agatha medallion, the Patron Saint of fires. One side showed a picture of St. Agatha and the inscription, "Pray for Us", on the other, "Protect Us From Fire".

Its almost chilling to think that this tiny medallion not only survived the fire, but was relocated to a place where my parents would find it. Its also very strange that my mother, who had lots of these Patron Saint medallions, doesn't know when or where she got this one. Agatha is also the Patron Saint of nurses, so she is assuming she received it sometime during her career as a nurse, but to have her also be the saint for fires is such a weird coincidence.

My mom now wears the medallion around her neck as a reminder of how lucky they are to have survived.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Happy Father's Day, Dad!

I've never really considered myself a "daddy's girl". Don't get me wrong, I adore my relationship with my father, but never once has he babied me, or treated me like a little princess, (even though I'm sure it was hard for him not to favor me above my three terrors brothers). He didn't let me get my way by whining and begging, and for that I am eternally grateful. He taught me to be a strong, independent person that didn't depend on anyone, not even him. I've always thought of him more as a friend, than a father. We run and go on bike rides, watch football and drink beers, and enjoy the outdoors, but honestly my favorite thing to do is just to talk with him. He has to be one of the most intelligent people I know, and he seems to have answers for all of my questions, even the ones I don't ask. He has a dry, slightly inappropriate sense of humor that comes out when you least expect it and he can make me laugh harder than anyone else I know.

My dad also happens to be a wonderful person and the very definition of integrity. I often find myself pondering what he would do in difficult situations, knowing that his wisdom and experience will guide me in the right direction. He is sincere and honest and kind to just about everyone he meets...not counting his patients undergoing a root canal. They might say otherwise.

I should probably also mention that he's pretty much a badass. He's completed more marathons, triathlons, and cycling races than I could even dream of doing in my lifetime and is in better shape than most people half his age. I know thats one of the things that keeps him so young.
Hiking around Devil's Tower

Dad and Sev after bowling one night. Pretty much sums up his sense of humor, and no, this is not his typical attire...

He cleans up nice too!
Thank you dad for being such an awesome person and father. Thank you for teaching me that hard work truly does pay off. Thanks for instilling in my every ounce of common sense I have in my head. Thanks for your patience, particularly that one afternoon when you taught me how to drive a stick shift. Thanks for singing me back to sleep when I was a screaming, horrible baby that wouldn't sleep through the night. (I don't remember that, but mom tells me it happened. Often. ) Thanks for being a role model and for setting the bar high (very high) for my future spouse.  Thanks for loving mom and being the rock of the family. Thanks for introducing me to cycling, running, theatre, good beer, and all types of crazy music I would have never thought to listen to without your input. Speaking of beer, thanks for always letting the 18 year old me have one after long bike rides (I guess mom knows now...).  Thanks always doing the right thing. Thanks for teaching me how to make some mean mashed potatoes. Thanks for your generosity. But most importantly, thanks for always being there for me. It means more to me than you know.

I feel so blessed to have two of the most amazing people in the world as my parents. I love you guys more than words, or this post could ever tell you! Happy Father's Day!

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Going West

I have some very exciting news...Sev and I are moving west! In a few weeks we will officially be residents of the great state Colorado...the land of whiskey, women and gold. After three wonderful years in Atlanta working in sales for Showtime Networks, I have decided to go back to school to pursue my passion of photography and will attend the Art Institute in Denver. I have always loved the Rockies and am so excited to be living in a city with so much to offer; from the amazing restaurants and nightlife to all of the outdoor activities I've been missing since moving to Atlanta. Starting over like this is a big, scary risk, but after everything me and my family have endured these past few years, the one thing I've learned is to do what makes you happy and have no regrets.

Sev and I will be living downtown with my younger brother (who is probably one of the greatest people in the world) and I'll also be a drivable distance to my parents in Nebraska which I couldn't be happier about. While we don't leave for another few weeks, I am so excited to start this new chapter in our lives. Stay tuned for updates and, hopefully, better photography on this little blog.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

A Diamond in the Rough

After being together for 3 years, people are always asking me and Sev when we are going to get married, but we both still feel so young and are not quite ready for that step in our lives. It will happen someday, but that someday is not today. Or tomorrow. Or probably even a year down the road. Plus the thought of planning a wedding makes my head spin. Definitely not ready for that.

That being said, I do love jewelry and would never say no to a lovely sparking thing on my hand or ear. I find myself drawn toward the rugged, but delicate look of handmade jewelry, especially any item involving diamonds. Below is an amazing rough cut diamond piece that I love, as well as a few lesser-priced gemstone pieces that give you the same look at a fraction of the cost. Anthropologie and Sundance are great sources for this type of jewelry, and there are always endless finds on Etsy.

The Inspiration
Ring by Melissa Joy Manning $565

The Look For Less

Sundance Diamond Earrings $338
Quarts Earrings $28
Solitaire Ring $43
Anthropologie Ring $48

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

I love you because...

Today is Sev and I's 3 year anniversary. I cannot believe we have been together that long! I guess that's a good thing, right?! Although I often mention him in this blog, I promise this is the only day of the year I will get all sappy and mushy and annoyingly lovey-dovey on you.

Meeting and falling in love with Sev was (and still is) the best thing that has ever happened to me. I had just to Atlanta and barely knew anyone when we met, but he gladly took me under his wing, introduced me to his friends and showed me the city the way only a local could. I'm a plane ride and a long drive from my parents and brothers, but I couldn't be happier with our life and the little family we've created here in Atlanta, (that includes our child, a 3ft tall Cookie Monster stuffed animal we bought for $5 at a garage sale, and our adopted dog, Mika.)

People say that everything happens for a reason, and I know that the reason I moved to Atlanta was to find him. He doesn't just make me happy, he makes my whole world better and more complete. Before I met him, I never believed in true love or soulmates, but after the first night we met (at a bar. So romantic, I know) I was smitten and we've pretty much been inseparable ever since.

 Go Karts!
Kayaking with Dolphins

About 2 years ago, I started the tradition of sending him emails and leaving him notes in his car or bag while I was away on business trips.
I Love You Because... always put me in a good mood, even on my crappiest of crappy days. are so creative and smart. The work you produce continually amazes me. are a true Southern gentleman; always opening doors and carrying my bags, and walking in front of me down stairs should I happen to take a tumble. (Lord knows I am absolutely capable of that.) take the trash out. And the recyclables. And you water the plants and empty the dishwasher, and do laundry, and make the bed and I never have to ask. love your family. And mine for that matter, which is probably a bigger feat. have such a positive outlook, always seeing the good in people and the silver lining in any bad situation. are my #1 fan, and always support me. pick me up from the airport...often with flowers, even if I've only been gone for a day have sick Frisbee skills, and lacrosse skills, and skiing skills, and golf skills, and skills in just about every other physical activity. edit my photos for me :) have an amazing sense of adventure that often takes us  all over the world. can make a mean omelet. rub my feet for me after a long day. watch movies and TV shows that I want to watch and don't complain (very much)
...your hair (it often looks better than mine). value the same things in life as me. will have dance parties with just me in our living room.
...of your sense of humor.
... you love your nieces more than anything in the world and that is pretty much the cutest thing ever.

I love you for a million other reasons that I couldn't possibly list in a silly blog post.

Sadly, we will be apart on our anniversary because I am traveling for work. Not sure what we will do  to celebrate when I get back, but I don't think it really matters. Our best and most memorable dates are usually spent over a pitcher of beer and bar grub at the nearby Taco Mac, or polishing off a bottle of wine on our porch. Whatever we do, I'm sure it will entail lots of smiling, reminiscing, and time spent just the two of us.

Happy us!

Friday, May 6, 2011

Thanks Mom.

I have the most amazing mom. I think most people think this about their own mother, which is great, but seriously, if there were a contest for this sort of thing, I'm pretty sure I would win. My mom is the most sincere and kind soul you could ever meet and she has a way of touching people's lives when they meet her. She is the most beautiful person I have ever met, inside and out. She is incredibly smart with a wonderful sense of humor, often displayed in the numerous inside jokes we share. She is sweet and polite and respectful. She makes a mean pie, as explained here, and always managed to keep a clean house (and by clean, I mean you could eat of the bathroom floor) and a weed-free garden while raising four hellions kids. She has always been my best friend and my biggest supporter (even when I wanted to move thousands of miles away. Sorry! I'm moving west soon enough!) She is a million and a half other things, but I don't want to bore you with a 13 page list describing her awesomeness.

 The whole family last Christmas
Sev and my mom in Denver

Mom and Dad
My mom challenged all of us kids to live in a way that shows compassion for others. If we are even a fraction as good of a person as she is, I'd say she did a wonderful job. Now that all of us have grown up and moved out, my mom has taken her skills to a new role as the Director of the Youth Unit in a Mental Health hospital. To the hundreds of children and adolescents that come to her hospital each year, many scarred by abuse or trauma, she is a mother, and a nurse, and a therapist, and an advocate, and I can't think of a better person for that job. I am always amazed at how kids are so at ease and comfortable with her, and while I've never actually seen her in action on the job, I have no doubt she is amazing (as shown by the numerous awards she has won...sorry Mom, I had to brag for you.)
Before an event during college

So mom, I'm sure I've probably said thanks for being so great a thousand times before, but I really mean it this time. Thank you for all you do. Thank you for teaching me kindness and compassion. And for making me laugh and cry. And for making me laugh so hard I cry. Thanks for teaching me to cook, and clean, and write a proper thank you note. Thanks for passing down your sense of style (but I am NOT thanking you for passing down your addiction expensive shoes and handbags.) Thanks for giving me a strong work ethic and for never letting me settle for less than I deserve. Thanks for always giving great advice (from both the therapist and the mom perspective). Thanks for teaching me that men who drive monster trucks around town have little you-know-whats. Thanks for coming to my soccer games, and cross country meets, and swim meets, and play performances, and for hauling me to all the practices in between. Thanks for introducing me to Joni Mitchell and John Irving and Robert Redford. Thanks for tucking me in at night and for going back down to the kitchen to get me a glass of water when I was thirsty. Thanks for sharing your love of good books with me. Thanks for your pancakes. Thanks for my brothers, who really suck sometimes, but are pretty amazing the majority of the time. Thanks for marrying dad. He's pretty cool too. Thanks for taking care of me when I was sick or heartbroken, or lonely. Thanks for giving me the courage to follow my dreams. Mostly, thanks for being you.

I'm so glad I get to spend Mother's Day with you!

Alright readers, now go tell your own mum thanks for everything she has done for you.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Home is Where Your Mom Is

A little over a week and a half ago, my parents were watching a movie in their living room, enjoying the  last fire of the season when they thought they smelled smoke. Within seconds the smoke detectors upstairs went off and when my father went to investigate he found the second floor filled with smoke. They quickly called 911, grabbed one of our dogs, Fred, a few important belongings and tried desperately to find Fred's sister (and BFF), Lili.  For the next two and a half  hours they sat on the neighbor's porch watching the house they had lived in for 23 years burn to the ground. When my mom called and told me, I didn't believe her. I didn't want to believe her. How could this be happening? This happens to other people, to people you don't know, not to your own family.

Sev and I quickly booked a flight home to be with my family and try to help in any way we could. After walking around the property, surveying the damage, we went right to work trying to salvage what was left of our home. At first it looked like everything was ruined. Although the the fire was only active in the attic and second floor, that floor eventually fell onto the main floor and smoke, heat and water (from the hoses and broken pipes) ruined just about everything on the main floor and the basement. What wasn't ruined we tried our best to restore to its pre-fire condition.  Dishes were scrubbed clean, scrapbooks dried out, artwork removed from broken frames. One blessing is that all of our photo albums, although completely waterlogged, were intact.

Visible remnants of my childhood were strewn about the house and backyard. I saw baby clothes, my old bed, even a pink sequined ballet recital costume. Enough to remind me that this is the place I grew up.

Investigators believe a wooden header which supports the inside of the chimney dried out over years and years of being exposed to heat and the combustible temperature was lowered enough that the wood caught fire. The scary part about this ordeal is that the fire investigator said it was going to happen. It was just a matter of time. Since it was bound to happen, I guess I'm glad it happened when it did-- while my parents were there and awake and healthy, without a houseful of guests or when my brothers and I were young.

While there is still a lot of work to be done and much more planning and stress, mostly on my parent's behalf, we have already started the rebuilding process. The support from our family, friends, neighbors and total strangers in the community has been incredible. I am absolutely humbled by everyone's thoughts, prayers and generosity, and I honestly don't know how we would survive without it.

A lot of my blog talks about the latest and greatest THINGS. What to buy, what to wear, even what to eat, but this tragedy was a reminder of what's really important. Things can be replaced. Memories and family are forever. I think my brother described it best when the newspaper interviewed us by saying, "Home is wherever your family is. A fire can't ever burn that down." Later that afternoon, I found this dish towel I gave my mom for her birthday a few years ago: "Home is Where Your Mom Is."