Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Gift Wrap Inspiration

I know I have been conspicuously absent around here. Apologies all around! There is so much I would love to share about the holiday season and especially how my family does the holidays because it's pretty unique and special. But I always find that during the holidays I'm too busy actually taking part in the festivities to write about it. :)

Obviously, there is SO much more to the season than shopping, planning, buying and wrapping presents. But I really do enjoy giving to friends and family and thinking up gifts that will make them feel special and loved. It doesn't matter how amazing the present is, thoughtful gift wrap makes it *that* much more special.

It's always so fun to observe the presents under my family's Christmas tree. Everyone has such unique style in their wrapping, from my father who considers high-quality wrapping a plastic Target bag instead of a plastic Wal-Mart bag to Carmella (4) who thinks the more pink, glitter and bows the better to Nathaniel (13) who is obsessive about the corners on his packages to Ellie (8) who demands on no more than three pieces of tape per package.

Sharing some of my gift wrap inspiration in case you, like me, are a last minute wrapper:
And a sample of the final product:
Find more wrapping and Christmas inspiration on my Pinterest board, Most Wonderful Time of the Year. I would love to hear what inspires your Christmas wrapping...comment below and let me know!

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Tybee Island

Tybee Island was not our destination. Twelve years ago we headed south for Disney World. Savannah was our rest stop, Tybee Island just a day trip for an event at the science center. But then we saw the lighthouse and we found the beach. That beautiful, perfectly deserted beach and we never did make it to the exhibit.

Nine consecutive trips later, this detour has become our home away from home. My family spends three weeks every summer on this tiny, two-mile island. We unplug, read books, play cards, cook so much food, walk the beaches and take a break from the rush and pressures of home. It's a time to regroup and recharge for the challenges of the year ahead. We now have so many friends here who have made us feel welcome and given Southern hospitality a greater meaning. This year dear-friends-turned-family traveled all the way from Minnesota to spend a few days of awesome conversation, eating and enjoying each others company.

Sometimes you find something you didn't know you were looking for. This wasn't the plan. But it's perfect. Oh so perfect. And you slowly discover this is where you were meant to be. It is the best place to be. And your plans don't matter anymore. Perhaps someday you'll arrive at your original destination. And maybe it's a detour but a detour is still part of the journey. This, this is now.

Monday, November 23, 2015

Getting Crafty | Fall Edition

Have you ever had a Pinterest fail? Pinterest is the best but I have had more DIY fails than I care to count. It just looks so easy...until you try it. Last Christmas I bought three yards of Tartan print flannel for a Pinterest project that quickly deteriorated into a full blown disaster. And all year I have regretted the waste of my fabric purchase.

Until now! Inspiration struck and this time IT WORKED. I cut down my three yards to 2.5 (so as not to drown) and folded the flannel into a seriously awesome blanket scarf. Guys, it is so warm and cozy! Plus, because of all the colors in the print, it should go with pretty much everything. Which means I will not be taking it off until spring. I did not hem but I think I may do a straight stitch around the border so it frays enough but not too much.

And to further the awesome, a here VERY similar scarf here is selling for $45 (gag). With sales and coupons I paid less than $5/yard. Guys, it's hard to beat the thrill of a really good deal.

In other Pinterest worthy news, after hearing much about apple cider donuts I took advantage of a lazy Sunday morning and gave them a go. Mella + Elsa were my helpers and we used this recipe. We made our own boiled apple cider and fried without too much disaster (be proud). Conclusion? They were okay but I don't think worth the hype. And, at least this particular recipe, did not have as much of an apple flavor as I would have liked. I might try a baked and/or yeast version sometime...if you have a recipe you like I would love a copy!

Care you share your recent crafting adventures?

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Dear Medical Professional

photo credit: susan schmidt
inspired by Morgan's fabulous post, Metrics of Affection...

Dear Medical Professional,

I hope you understand what an amazing privilege you have. This year, in the United States alone, 6,000 babies will be born with Down Syndrome. And you, YOU, will be the very first person to welcome that baby into the world. Those 6,000 scared and confused families are not going to look to their friends or relations for answers...they are going to look to you.

You will be the one to share the news of their baby's diagnosis.  You will answers their endless questions about the implications of Down Syndrome. You will set the tone of that baby's first days and weeks of life. And you words and action will determine their child's reception.

Two and half years ago my brother Addison-sometimes-Henry was born. While we knew he had a CHD we did not have a prenatal diagnosis of Down Syndrome. There were many specialist present at his deliver. And when he was born they knew. But no one wanted to be the one to deliver the news. Although he was stable, they swept him away to the NICU before my mother could hold him and she still regrets the loss of those precious early bonding moments.

He was three days old when we received a definite T21 diagnosis. "I'm sorry." "This shouldn't have happened." Statistics. Complications. Referrals.

I'm ashamed to say, we spent the first week of his life mourning his diagnosis and the bleak picture the professionals had painted of his life. Not one doctor, not one nurse congratulated us. Not one of the many healthcare providers involved in his birth told us what an amazing boy he was and what a bright future he had. To them, his birth was a genetic mistake. And that is what they conveyed to my family, already scared in the reality of this unfamiliar territory.

I can't encourage you enough, if you have the opportunity to greet a child with Down Syndrome, please take time to express to the family how pleased you are for the arrival of their beautiful baby.

Please tell them their child's future is bright and the sky is the limit.

Please tell them they are living in a wonderful era for people with Down Syndrome.

Please tell them their child is more than a diagnosis.

Please be honest and tell them this will be hardest things they've ever done but their child will always be 110% worth it all.

Please tell them, for now, the pain and tears are real but they are nothing compared to the incredible joy the future will hold.

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Why I Love "Go Set A Watchman"

Like everyone else in the world, I love To Kill a Mockingbird. Like everyone else in the world, I was surprised/excited/nervous to hear of the release of Go Set a Watchman. But unlike everyone else in the world, I love Go Set a Watchman and think it a worthy sequel to Harper Lee's classic tale.

I have yet to hear a positive review for Go Set a Watchman. Several have said it was only published because it's Harper Lee, one friend said it was boring but the main complaint has been, it ruins Atticus' character.

***keep in mind this post will, most likely, include spoilers***

In case you haven't read GSaW, the very abridged synopsis goes something like this: Grown-up Scout, now living in New York, returns home to visit Mayberry (←small, southern town...Maycomb, can understand my confusion). Through a series of events she discovers Atticus and her love interest/Atticus' protege are members of the newly formed Citizens' Council. Her world comes crashing down as she realized her father is not who she thought him to be.

Reader's main quibble seems to mirror Scout's feelings perfectly. In To Kill a Mockingbird we all fell in love with Atticus and hailed him as a great Civil Right's activist. So naturally our justice seeking hearts are devastated to learn of our hero supporting something as vile as segregation.

“What would Atticus do?” passed through her unconscious; she never realized what made her dig in her feet and stand firm whenever she did was her father; that whatever was decent and of good report in her character was put there by her father; she did not know that she worshiped him.”

But don't you see? That's just the point!

People are flawed. Fathers, mothers, friends, celebrities and historical figures. They all get stuff wrong. You can't set you moral compass by any one person. Because they will let you down. And, like Scout, your world and sense of morality will tumble if it's dependent on the supposed goodness of any individual.

“Every man’s island, Jean Louise, every man’s watchman, is his conscience. There is no such thing as a collective conscious.” 

But, guys? Flawed people can get stuff right, too. Good people aren't always good and bad people aren't always bad. You can learn something from anyone. Atticus' belief in a despicable practice and his ignorant justifications of his beliefs do nothing to change the fact that his actions in To Kill a Mockingbird are noble, right and commendable. Atticus is a good father. He did good works. But he is flawed and has flawed thinking. He's human.

“As you grew up, when you were grown, totally unknown to yourself, you confused your father with God. You never saw him as a man with a man’s heart, and a man’s failings—I’ll grant you it may have been hard to see, he makes so few mistakes, but he makes ’em like all of us.” 

I would like to tell you about my cousin C. When C experienced some traumatic events in his early teens, instead of facing the hurt, he masked the pain with substance abuse. He spent his teen and young adult years in and out of jail on various charges, including armed robbery. Eventually the drugs he embraced took his life.

The world would not classify C as a good person. But to my siblings and I he was always the big brother who was never too busy to play hide and seek or build a snowman. We were well aware of the bad things he had done but we knew he was not a bad person. He was our big brother and friend.

It would be nice if people fit inside our mental check boxes of good, bad, neutral. But that's not the way the world works.

 “I need a watchman to tell me this is what a man says but this is what he means, to draw a line down the middle and say here is this justice and there is that justice and make me understand the difference.”

People are flawed creatures. Inevitably they will let you down. There is evil in us all.

But there is also a great deal of good. And you can't ignore the good. Be wise, acknowledge the wrong. But keep looking for the's there somewhere. And when you find it, take heart. Relish that, no matter how dark, there is always a glimmer of goodness.

“As she welcomed him silently to the human race, the stab of discovery made her tremble a little.”
 ― Harper Lee, Go Set a Watchman
Have you read Go Set a Watchman? I would love to hear your thoughts...especially if you disagree!

Monday, October 26, 2015

Top 10 Disney Memories

Hello, friends! I'm back! In case you didn't notice, I ran out of time before I left and the whole month of running posts kinda went out the window. (Get it? Ran out of time? I crack myself up...) Hopefully there was something useful in the posts that did make it to publication and we'll get back to running blogging sometime in the future...

BUT right now I want to tell you about Disney World! Actually I want to tell you ALL about Disney World but that would be one flippin' long post so let's focus on the top ten Disney moments (you don't know how I struggled to keep it down to just 10!).
Disney was awesome. I loved every. single. thing. about it except the darn Florida heat. The worst. Basically spent two weeks bopping around from AC to AC. God help me if I ever move south...I'm pretty sure I wouldn't survive.

1. Seeing Carmella meet and interact with Mickey Mouse, Elsa, Snow White and other assorted Disney characters. Carmella (4) was actually the instigator of this trip when, back in January, she informed us Mickey Mouse was calling for her to come meet him. When a little girl as cute as this tells you she needs to visit really can't argue with the logic. Heck, some days I feel like I need to see Mickey Mouse. Carmella is the very first of my siblings to believe in Santa Clause, fairies, mermaids and every Disney characters she comes in contact with. It's a new experience for my family. Is it wrong to lie to her? Probably. But we are relishing the novelty and sheer cuteness of a little tiny believer and praying she won't outgrow it in a hurry. Seeing her face light up when, after forty-five minutes in line (no complaining...I know other people waited over five hours), she finally catches a glimpse of the Frozen makes every. single. cent. 110% worth it.
2. Discovering Disney updates. One of my very favorite things about Disney is, no matter how many times you visit (this was my sixth trip...yes, I can direct you to any bathroom in the Magic Kingdom), there is always something new to experience. We checked out the new parade, Rapunzel bathrooms and, the biggest change since last visit, the Seven Dwarfs ride. True to Disney style, there are SO many fun details that make this two minute kiddie roller coaster 110% magical.
3. Guys, I'm a sucker for anything seasonal. Not in a snowman earring sorta way but in a when it's fall I want to see pumpkins, goshdarnit sorta way. Disney any time of the year is beautiful. But Disney during the holidays is that much more special. The Christmas decorations are my very favorite but no one can deny that even when it comes to fall decor...Disney's nailed it.
4. Generally, Disney on a holiday is NOT a good idea. But Labor Day was the last day of the Frozen Summer Fun party at Disney's Hollywood Studios. And when you're traveling with two little girls as Frozen obsessed at Ellie and Carmella you do what you have to do. Frozen singalong, Frozen stage show, Frozen parade, Frozen dance party, Frozen fireworks...basically everything was blue and snowing with "Let it Go" blaring. But it was such a fun day and seeing the girl's faces...I'm sold. The fireworks, which told the Frozen story as narrated by Olaf, were truly spectacular and some of Disney's best.
5. The key to surviving Disney with little ones? Don't try to do it all in one day. We did a lot of half days and post-nap time evenings for dinner and a nighttime show. It made for some super fun evenings and never forget...when the kids are rested and happy, we're all happy.
6. What's better than Disney World? Starbucks IN Disney World. Guys, it's just the best. And the Disney themed Starbucks cups? Melt my heart.
7. No Disney trip is complete without lunch at the Crystal Palace with Pooh Bear and friends. The food is far from noteworthy but seeing the kids (and my father...he's the quintessential Disney Dad) get so into the characters is priceless. Plus there is nothing like the respite of the cool dining room on a hot afternoon to recharge your batteries for the rest of the day. Henry was hilarious with the characters...he was so taken with them and was shouting his little heart out to get their attention...but as soon as they got near he completely flipped and would have nothing to do when 'em from afar, little one.

8. The Magic Kingdom is NOT a fun place to be when it's raining. But there we were, smack in the middle of Main Street during a downpour. Us and every other person in the Magic Kingdom takes cover which means you have lots of sweaty, stinky, bodies crammed together in tight places. Then, out of nowhere, there's music and people dancing in galoshes and a spontaneous parade takes shape right there on Main Street. And all of the sudden you don't feel so crabby about being wet. Guys, these moments are when Disney shines. The impromptu shows, parades, flash mobs...this is where the magic happens.
9. We don't generally eat at Italian restaurants. Why would I even want to when my mom makes everything better? But after many recommendations we finally made reservations at Via Napoli while touring Epcot's World Showcase. When it comes to marinara we are pretty snobby...and their marinara left much to be desired. But the food was not half bad and the service (combine Disney employee + Italian and you're pretty much golden) was amazing. We had such a fun afternoon just chilling around the Italy pavilion. It's slow and sweet and peaceful. The performers, the architectures, the tables outside the wine shops...atmosphere perfection.
10. On our last day, my parents put together a Disney scavenger hunt. We teamed up by twos to complete certain list items...interview a cast member, take a team selfie, create a magical moment (such as singing loud, loud, loud on Small World, sneaking in an extra round on Buzz Lightyear after park closing...), find pixie dust, putt your hands in the air on the Splash Mountain drop (AND getting a picture to prove it) get the idea. We all had so much fun and it really made the otherwise sad last day 110% more special.
And THAT is the Reader's Digest edition of my Disney Vacation. Have you ever been to Disney World/Land? I would LOVE to hear some of your favorite memories!

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Preventing and Treating Shin Splints

Pain management...because THIS is how wild and crazy I am.
Shin splints...they are nasty and miserable. Thankfully, they are simple to avoid.

1. Always wear good shoes. Keep in mind, expensive doesn't always mean better! Do your research. And avoid shoes marketed as running shoes. Running shoes are meant to be super light for speed and disposable after only a few runs. They offer little to no support. Look instead for a trail shoe. My shoe of choice is anything from the Asics gel series (currently wearing Asics Gel Preleus). They are a little pricey but not ghastly so and a solid pair of running shoes will always cost less than orthopedic bills.

2. Replace your shoes every 200-300 miles. We put our running shoes through a lot and they wear out fast. The Nike+ running app has an option to track the mileages on your shoes which is so helpful.

3. Always s t r e t c h after a run. This is something I'm horrible at because I feel running is an intrusion into my day and I want to get it over with as quickly as possible. One day I was in a rush for an appointment, skipped stretching and paid the price with so much pain all day. That night I finally stretched and it was sweet relief.

Sometimes shin splints happen despite our best efforts. Yes, it hurts but you've gotta work through it. Don't stop running! Apply heat, take ibuprofen around the clock and s t r e t c h your shins like nobody's business.

How do you prevent and treat shin splints? Any shin splint stories you would like to share?

Monday, September 14, 2015

How To Increase Your Running Speed and Endurance

First a bit of a confession: Back in March I started training for this running season. At first I was doing fine. It was March...perfect the beach...perfect location. And than I got a nasty cold and instead taking time off to rest I ran through it. But because of my low energy I had to stop frequently and it was a mess that got me started in stopping during my runs. Death to my endurance.

To complicate matters, when I was eleven I had reconstructive surgery on my knee. It works great now but in the past year I've developed pain in my knee and hip that only gets worse with running (yes, I'm an old lady). So running will never be pain free.

Long story short, all this lead to my breaking down after a run sometime in May and telling my mom it would never get easier. In all her loving, unfiltered wisdom she said I could either choose to succeed or quit but stop whining and making excuses. It really did seem a shame to quit after so much work and quitting really isn't in my nature AT ALL. So I had an attitude check, decided I could and I would and reached my non-stop 3.5 miles which is my typical run and really the perfect workout for me. I feel like I've worked hard but I'm not dead.

The best way to build your running endurance is simply to decided you will and do not allow yourself to stop. Run as slow as molasses if you must but DON'T STOP RUNNING. Once you stop running your muscles begin to tense, your heart rate slows, you loose your pace and getting going again is so. much. harder.

When you feel like you can't go any further and HAVE to stop, BEFORE you stop I recommend first simply slowing down. Run a 12, 13 or even 14 min/mile. There is no shame in taking your time and you will feel so proud of yourself for not stopping.

Some days I keep going only by thinking how much I want to be finished running and how stopping will just make the misery last longer. Hey, whatever works!

Breathing is huge for endurance. Steady breaths in and out the nose are best. And don't wait until you are winded to focus on breathing. Breath intentionally from the start to avoid cramps and breathlessness. If you have hills in your area (we have nothing but hills) use the downhill stretches to slow down, breath intentionally and prepare for the next hill.

As far as increasing speed, this is one I'm still trying to figure out myself. Remember the second rule for beginning runners? Don't increase your speed until you have reached your distance goal. Once you can run your target distance nonstop you will be surprised how your speed will improve without much effort.

Figure out your average run length and try to do just a little better the next time. For example, once I reached my 3.5 miles nonstop I was doing 42 minute runs pretty consistently without giving speed any thought. A 3.5 miles run in 40 minutes seemed like a pretty simple goal and it was.

Similarly, determine your average no-thought-to-speed pace. I started out doing an average 11:50min/mi. My goal is to run a less than 10:00min/mi. Your pace will fluctuate throughout the run, especially if you run on hills. For now, I try to keep my normal run pace to somewhere between 11:00min/mi and 10:20min/mi. When I need to slow down I try to go no slower than a 12:00min/mi and I throw in as many sub 10:00min/mi sprints (usually 9:30min/mi) as I can to make up for the slower bits.

Be sure you are properly nourished before you run! Last month I did a morning run on an empty stomach less than 24hrs after donating blood. It was a mess. I ran 13:00-14:00min/mi and felt like I was dying. You need those carbs for energy. I am not a breakfast person and don't like eating before 10AM. But on running morning I try to eat 60g carbs, 15-45 minutes before running. It makes such a difference in my speed and endurance! Your body needs something to burn or it will burn muscle and that's just counterproductive.

Also, drink lots of water! Just not too near running or...ya know...

Make use of your full stride. I'm 5'6" so pretty average height. Regardless of height (but helpful if you're tall!) just increasing the distance of your stride will make you faster and your runs easier. This is tricky to practice and something I have to be very conscience of.

Livin' On A Pray by Bon Jovi is my power song. I always listen to it at the half way mark and keep my pace under 10:00min/mi for the duration. It improves time and is just fun.

Always on the look out for do you increase your speed and endurance?

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Three Rules For Beginning Runners

We've all done it at some point. You tie on your running shoes for the first time of the season or maybe the first time ever.  You have carefully researched and selected the perfect training plan. You hit the road and you feel invincible. Bye, bye training plan. Who needs a training plan?

You do.

You are new to this runner racket. So is your body. It is not used to the intensity of a long distance run. Bad things happy when we thrown the training plan out the window. Injury. Shin splints. Nastiness. It may feel like a set back to stick to a steady increase plan when it feels like you could do so. much. more. but trust me on this one...injury will be a much greater setback and may keep you from ever getting back on the road.

Rule No. 1 For Beginning Runners- Select a training plan and stick to it! Be kind to your body and give it the time it needs to adjust. I know many runners like run/walk plans but it has been my experience that once you start taking walking breaks it is very challenging to stop. I find it much more effective to steadily increase distance. Below is the training plan I used this spring and found very helpful.

Rule No. 2 For Beginning Runners - Build your distance goal before even THINKING about speed. I strongly recommend setting a distance goal (5k/3.1 miles is really the ideal distance for health benefits without putting too much wear and tear on your body. More on goals later.)  Once you have the endurance to run 3 miles (or whatever your distance goal) and KNOW you CAN you will be surprised at how fast the speed comes. (No pun intended!) I love sprinting and it's very tempting to just run as fast as feels good. But I know that if I expend my energy on the sprint I will never make it to the end. It is much wiser to keep it slow and steady until you have the endurance.

Rule No. 3 For Beginning Runners - Never compare yourself to other runners. I cannot think of anything more fatal to that running spirit than comparison. I read this running magazine where the featured runners do 50-60 miles A WEEK. My brothers come back from a 5k complaining because they were so slow (26 MINUTES!). Don't allow the success of others to steal your thunder. Think of what you can do, reflect on how far you've come and be proud of yourself for getting out there and doing it!

What training plan works best for you? Any rules you would add?

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

A Month of Running

When you read this I will be somewhere along 95 heading south for a really fantastic family vacation. Two weeks in Disney world and two weeks on the shore. Yes. Awesome. I can't wait to tell you all about it when I return in October and send you into photograph overload. But never fear! You will not be completely deprived of my presence...

A few weeks ago a dear friend and new runner emailed asking for running advice. If you know me and my running habits you may understand why I am the last person anyone should be asking for running advice. My farthest run ever was six miles. And I have no intention of ever running further. I run 3.5 miles, three times a week. I run somewhere between slow and slower. (10'40"  and 11'40") This is my third running season  (I usually chicken out over winter). And as a general rule I hate running. 

But! Having run three seasons and being part of a family of serious runners (they scare me!) I have picked up a few tips and tricks. And I am always more than happy to give advice, especially when it's about something I know nothing about. 

While away I will be training to get my 5k under 30 minutes for the 5k by Change Inc. on October 17th. So I have decided to name September the month of running. We will be touching on several running topics inspired by my friend's to build endurance, how to increase speed, the best running gear and some pitfalls to avoid. 

Let's dispense with all the disclaimers from the get go... 

I am not a personal trainer and have no professional experience or medical training. I am merely an amateur who puts one foot in front of the other and gets excited when it adds up to a significant distance I can call a run, sharing what works for me. Listen to my advice at your own risk. 

As always, I value your input! If you have any experience running you probably have more than I so please share your tips as I share mine and maybe we can learn together. What advise would you give a new runner?

Grab your running shoes and let's get going!

Saturday, September 5, 2015

What to Pack for Disney World

Walt Disney World: the happiest place on Earth. It's also my happy place. It has been three years since my last trip and I'm so exciting to be going again in just a few short days. But Disney is not for the faint and heart and to enjoy your time proper planning is absolutely vital. This will be my sixth trip to Disney World and I have learned a few tips and tricks in my Disney years, one being there are a few things you absolutely must bring to the parks. Nothing is more frustrating than hiking from your lodgings to the Disney parking lot, onto the tram/boat/monorails, into the park and then realizing you forgot an important piece of Disney survival equipment. Here are a few items I have found most helpful for park days (with the exception of the assumed, cell phone, etc.):

I've tried purses, totes, messenger bags... A backpack is the way to go. Way less cumbersome and way easier to manage. Just don't make the same unfortunate mistake as I and bring a large backpack. Not only will you end up packing too much, everyone in your group who doesn't want to carry their own bag will ask you to haul around their stuff which very quickly multiplies the weight of your bag. So go small. My mom gave me a Coach backpack almost identical to this one I will be using but I think something like this or this would work as well.

Foot care kit
It has been estimated that the average Disney guest walks roughly twelve miles a day. Even for those of us who exercise regularly, that's a lot of walking. One day in the World Showcase I made the mistake of wearing a new pair of shoes and after just one hour I had the worst blisters on my heels. No foot care kit in sight, I just dealt with it and still have the scars on my heels. Keep these items handy for happy feet: Gauze, betadine, Moleskin or Johnson & Johnson blister bandages, small scissors, sewing needle, extra socks and talcum powder.

Feminine supplies emergency kit
If you haven't picked up on my obsession with kits/pouches/anything organized and in it's will soon. Ladies, it always comes when least convenient. And smack in the middle of The Magic Kingdom is as about as inconvenient as it gets. My mom came up with this idea and it's one of her best yet. I keep a little zip lock bag with a change of panties, pads, tampons, baby wipes and ibuprofen and it has been a lifesaver. I like to keep various sizes of tampons and pads...even if I don't use them there's always a chance someone in my party (or the next stall) will need an assist. It will still suck to have your period in Disney World but it will help it suck a little (LITTLE) less. I like to assemble my own so it's completely customized but Pinch Provisions has a super cute mini emergency kit.

First aid kit
Disney has first aid supplies available pretty much everywhere but I like to keep a few band aids, ibuprofen, Excedrin, sudafed and benadryl in my bag just in case.

Food in Disney is ridiculously expensive. Bringing your own snacks is a convenient alternative to tasteless, overpriced food. Plus a granola bar can be very helpful for bribing young children to behave while waiting 70+ minutes for Peter Pan's Flight.

Powder foundation
Florida heat will melt even the best of us. A good powder foundation helps keep you feeling fresh and a little less...wilty. Physician's Formula has a nice powder that doesn't irritate my acne.

Water bottle
Gotta stay hydrated in the heat and bottled water in the parks is crazy. But! You can have your water bottled filled at pretty much any concession stand or counter service restaurant for no charge. Score! I use my Addison bottle by Contigo all day everyday. (The name makes it awesome, of course.)

Travel toothbrush
Seriously the best thing since sliced bread. (Although, sliced bread is enormously overrated.) Tooth brushing (teeth brushing? brushing teeth?) is a bit of an obsessions with me, I find few things as refreshing as a freshly brushed mouth. Travel toothbrushes are sold at pretty much any Target, Wal-Mart or CVS and are so nice for on-the-go.

Cool and comfortable clothing
Did I mention it's really, really, really hot in Florida? Go cool and comfortable. I will be wearing primarily leggings and long tops and, of course, my pineapple pants (they may not be the most figure flattering but they ace the cool and comfortable test).

Light sweater/jacket
So maybe it's an odd item to suggest after the many Florida heat complaints above but sometimes it does get chilly during late night shows and fireworks and in air conditioned theaters. My motto: better safe than sorry.

Comfortable shoes
Cannot emphasize enough the importance of comfortable shoes. Athletic shoes would be ideal but I just can't bring myself to wear sneakers when not exercising. Toms are a wonderful alternative. It's almost like being barefoot they are so comfortable but still cute and fashionable. And Toms One for One pledge is the best.

And there you have it! What would you pack for a day in Disney or any amusement park?

Friday, September 4, 2015

Currently Reading | September

I will be out of town for the month of September so rather than skip a month we're doing something a little different. Instead of talking about the books I have read I'm going to share my September to-read list. Yes, it's considerably longer than most of my monthly reading lists but, did I mention I will be on vacation? And we all know reading time is one of the very best parts of vacation. Undoubtedly, I will add to this list as the month progresses...any additions will be shared in October!

White Coat, Black Hat by Carl Elliott
An account of the business side of medicine...I get the idea this book also delves into medical ethics.

Being Mortal by Dr. Atul Gawande
I have read every book by Atul Gawande and they are all amazing (although Better is I ordered a copy of this book from the library back in March but the wait list was so long it just came in...perfect timing for vacation and perfect timing considering we've been discussing end of life ethics.

To Err is Human
Not so much a book as a report from the Institute of Medicine on building a safer health system. I've been wanting to get my hands on a copy for awhile and am super excited to have found a free pdf copy for my kindle.

What Doctors Feel Danielle Ofri
"A look at the emotional side of medicine." Not really sure what that means but should be interesting!

Between Expectations by Meghan Weir
Dr. Weir shares the lessons she learned during her pediatric residency at Boston Children's Hospital. Peds! BCH! It's gonna be good.

Learning to Play God by Robert Marion
"Dr. Marion reveals the dehumanizing, slightly insane, and often brutal process of medical training." Intense...

Miracles and Mayhem in the ER by Dr. Brent Russell
My father gave me a kindle copy of this book. He has a bit of an obsession with downloading kindle books but, yes, it was very sweet of him to know my genre.

The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind by William Kamkwamba
This is the story of a young man who at the age of fourteen built a windmill from junk. Okay, so maybe that's a bit oversimplified. Through his creativity and resourcefulness this young man helped his rural African village and brought hope to many. Always excited to see young people doing amazing things.

Go Set a Watchman by Harper Lee
Like everyone else in the world, I have mixed feelings about this book. Is it wrong to publish a sequel after so many years? Is it possible to equal the brilliance of To Kill a Mockingbird? We shall see. If you have read Go Set a Watchman I'd love your thoughts!

Tender is the Night by F. Scott Fitzgerald 
I have yet to meet a Fitzgerald I didn't love. Little bit of trivia...did you know F. Scott is from Maryland and named after my state's favorite local hero, Francis Scott Key? (We're pretty batty about Key here in the hometown...when you're short on local heroes you take what you can get!)

What's on your September reading list?

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Currently Reading | August

100,000 Hearts by Denton Cooley
Memoir of Denton Cooley, pioneer in cardiovascular surgery. This guy. Wow. He invented one of the first heart lung machines, designed a heart valve better than any available at the time, performed the first heart transplant in the U.S., developed improved aneurysm repair techniques and performed the first artificial heart transplant. So yeah. Pretty knock-your-socks-off awesome. Great science but easy to read for us novices. I am very grateful, unlike some memoirs (I'm looking at you, Mr. Clinton), Dr. Colley's background and childhood are briefly covered but the primary focus is on his accomplishments. Let's be honest: when you read a book by a brilliant heart surgeon you want to hear about heart surgery, not fifty chapters of childhood memories. Well done, Dr. Cooley. You can cut and write.

The Soul of a Doctor by Susan Pories
This book is a collection of essays written by Harvard medical students. Focusing on the experiences that influences them the most on their journeys to becoming doctors it definitely offers some unique insight into the emotional changes medical students experiences. In the afterword there is a brief synopsis of each neat to see what kind of doctors they became after getting a peek into their minds.

In Stitches by Anthony Youn 
Okay, so maybe I profiled a little when I found out Dr. Youn is plastic surgeon and TV doc. I expected shallow, false...I was wrong. As he chronicles his journey through medical school Dr. Youn is very honest and real about just how human he is. Refreshing. I loved reading about his family dynamics and how his father, who some might consider stern to a fault, was one of his greatest influences.

The Devil's Cave, The Resistance Man and The Children Return by Martin Walker
The last three books in the Bruno, Chief of Police series and YES I do feel proud of myself for finishing AN ENTIRE SERIES in one summer. The Devil's Cave lacked the charm of the other books...sexual crimes and the occult...not the light, French countryside I love about this series. The Resistance Man was just okay and The Children Return, again, not the quaint stories I've come to expect. Disappointing but I'm not going to let that rain on my series finishing parade.

In ten days I leave town for four weeks so I would love some suggestions for beach reading! What books would you pack for vacation?

Friday, August 14, 2015

The Sanctity of Death

I have never cried at a funeral. I used to think this was because I had never experienced the death of someone close enough to feel the loss that deeply. Last summer my dear friend and adopted grandmother passed away. None of my biological grandmothers are involved in my life so I thought the pain would be acute. But three times she had battled breast cancer and three times she had survived and thrived. Her body was weak. Her mind was failing. She had lived a full and influential life. I miss having her in my life. But her death -the end of suffering- was a relief.

Now another friend is facing terminal cancer. He has had many wonderful months since his diagnosis but in the past few weeks his body is giving up more and more. We have said goodbye and are waiting for the news of his death. When the news arrives, once again, it will be a relief. He will again be lucid and pain free.

My adopted grandmother died surrounded by her family. Her children had respected her throughout her life and as she aged and they took charge of her care they always honored her wished above all. Even when they disagreed on what was best for her they recognized it was her decision to make.

On his deathbed this friend of my family is being cared for by the children who for many years were estranged. From the beginning of his treatment he has been very adamant about wanting to be medicated as little as possible. He does not like the way the drugs make him feel and wants to be fully present for his final days. He is dying. The drugs are not healing him, they simply mask his pain. He would rather feel the pain than feel the emptiness. But he values peace with his children above his preference and has deferred to them. His children no doubt love him and want the best for him but they have not respected his decision.

Do we take away the sanctity of death -of life itself- when without cause for hope of improvement we interfere with the course of nature? The family has an opinion. The health care providers have opinions. We as a society have an opinion about the right and wrong way to die. But do we have the right to have an opinion? In India the greatest blessing a person can receive is the blessing of an elder. Does our disrespect for the decisions of our passing elders take from us that blessing?

Is it right to, against their will, rob the lucidity of a person's final moments in the name of comfort? To what point should we help the inevitable come quickly and comfortably? Is dignity in death even possible?

As a daughter who one day will make decisions for my an individual aspiring to a profession that gives care in the final moments...I ponder these questions. I suspect I will never know the answers. Perhaps it isn't for me to know but just trust that what will be will be and when the time come God will give the wisdom and grace to do what is right.

I don't know. I wish death was black and white. I wish there was a clear right and wrong. But there isn't. So we ponder. We accept. We give dignity. We comfort. We respect.

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Top Three | Summer Style Helps

I am not, nor will I ever be, a fashion blogger. Partially because I just don't have what it takes but mostly because fashion is not my main style priority. I'm concerned with looking neat and put together while staying comfortable and quite often that overlaps with the world of fashion. Elegance, Class and The Pursuit of Comfort. Pretty much sums up my style mantra.

Is there a greater challenge to staying stylish than the heat and humidity? I know it's late to be posting about summer but I've had this post on the back burner since May and here in Maryland we have another month of heat and humidity. So bear with me as I share my top three hot weather helpers.

AG Re: Coil
If you are a fellow curly head you know the love/hate relationship that is having curly hair. During the summer it's all hate. At just the slightest mention of humidity you can forget the curls...all you have is frizz. And heat=sweat=daily hair washing and we all know how much curls love that. (Read the sarcasm.) Thankfully we need not despair. There is Re: Coil by AG. I have used so many curl creams over the years and none have ever come close to this level of amazing. It keeps my curls light and lovely even in the heat. After showering I just scrunch a dollop in my hair, blow dry my bangs (if I'm not feeling too lazy) and I'm good to go. Five minutes to awesome. It doesn't get any better.

Linen Pants
I don't have good sundress or shorts legs and I don't like jeans in the summer. Linen pants have been a lifesaver. Yes, they are pretty much glorified yoga pants. But guys, they are so. comfortable. And with well selected shoes and accessories you can channel Palm Beach instead of pajama party. My very favorite pair are from Forever21 but, sadly, they are no longer available. Old Navy's linen pants are a close second. While not linen, they are loose and comfortable so I think these awesome Old Navy pineapple pants deserve a mention as well. Pair with a cami or two and cute sandals. Summer comfort perfection.

Powder Foundation
Powder foundation is awesome for touching up melting makeup and quickly covering blemishes when you don't feel like doing a complete makeup job. I went through several brands before finding one that doesn't irritate my acne. Physicians formula powder foundation has been wonderful and I love that it is SPF50.

and as a bonus...

Because I'm kinda obsessed about sunscreen (I blame the scary skin cancer posters in my dermatologist's office) I can't recommend enough Hawaiian Tropics sunscreen. It smells amazing. I mean how many sunscreens can you love for the smell? Plus it always leaves my skin feeling moisturized instead of greasy and heavy.

What are your summer style tricks?

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

The Big Family Post

Anyone else get soap opera cast from this picture or is it just me? Photo credit to the oh so talented Susan Schmidt.
Frequently I receive big family related questions. "Did you like growing up in a big family?" "Have you ever wished you were an only child?" "Do you want a big family of your own someday?" It's never really been a topic here on the blog for no reason except it never seemed relevant. But today I'm here with all the answers to your big family questions, to satisfy your curiosity and hopefully dispel some myths along the way.

A few things I would like to clarify before we delve in...

-I believe growing up in a larger-than-typical family is a great experience and really one of the best things my parents have done for me. I love my siblings and wouldn't want to live my life without any one of them. So of course I like being a part of a big family because there isn't a sibling I would want to wish out of existence. 

-In this post a large family will be any family of five or more children from a traditional (two parents, biological children) or non-traditional (multiple marriages, adoption, etc.) family. There is no rhyme or reason behind the number five except five seems big.

-When big family parenting is done right it can be one of the best things to happen to a kid. But not all parents do it right and I acknowledge it is not the best option for every family. There are children who have been hurt because their parents had a poor approach...although parents who are going to screw up their kids would probably screw up their kids regardless of the number of kids.

That being said...

There are unique challenges that come along with the benefits of big family life and I want to be honest and realistic. 

My mother makes a habit of occasionally asking my siblings and I what we like/dislike about our family and what we would change if we could. FYI: this is a great parenting practice. We are not a perfect family but we're pretty close. (JK...sorta.) We have our issues but the only thing I dislike about the number of people in my family is the lack of storage (but really closet space) and constant need to rearrange and organize. But that really has nothing to do with a big family and everything to do with our small house. (Which we love and are sad to be adding onto soon because, while there will be more closet space, we love our little house just as it is and closet space isn't everything.) And while constantly re-organizing is a pain it encourages me to get rid of the excess so it's not all bad.

In all seriousness, the one aspect of being a big family I could really live without is the age gaps between my siblings and I. My older sister is 23 and my baby brother is 2. That's a pretty big gap. It makes me sad that we didn't all do childhood together and it makes me sad that as I move on with my life I will miss out on parts of the little ones childhood. With my littlest siblings more often than not I feel more like an aunt than sister. But the age gap is not all bad! I love observing my little siblings and being able to enjoy their newborn and toddler stages and help with their upbringing. It truly is a unique experience and I have learned so much about children and human nature in general from watching them grow.

The most frustrating challenge comes not from my family itself but from people's perception of big families. There is a common idea among the world in general that kids of big families are screwed up by virtue of the fact that they are from a big family. Intending to be kind, a friend once said how surprised they were after getting to know us just how normal we were. That stung just a tad. At one point they thought we somehow damaged merely because the size of our family. Whenever we as a family go somewhere together people will point, stare, count kids and ask rude questions. Often in a restaurant people will interrupt their meal and move to a table farther from the big family. Few friends are brave enough to invite my entire family to their house. And for some reason people feel the need to bring the Duggars into every. single. conversation. For the love of all things sacred, stop comparing us to the Duggars. We do not know the Duggars, we do not watch their show, and we strongly disagree with many of their family's choices.

But then again...when has it ever mattered what people think?

Children (usually teens) have confided how much they wish they were an only child. I think they expect sympathy. My advice: suck it up and deal with it. It's not your decision how many siblings you have. As the procreators and bread winners it's your parents call to make. You can't control your situation but you can control your attitude and it's attitude, not situation, that determines your happiness. You can embrace the family you've been give or be miserable. It's your choice.

Do I want a big family of my own? Honestly, I haven't given it enough thought to know yet. Not being in a position to be a parent right now it's not a decision I should be making. I will say, if I ever sided against having a larger-than-typical family it would not be because I have been burned by my experience but because I realize the really amazing sort of parent it takes to raise a large family well. And I strongly disapprove of parents who have a large number of children out of a sense of religious or social obligation and spend their parenting years in bitterness and resentment, failing to properly treasure their children.  

I hope this has helped demystify big families for you! Most importantly, I hope you will realize that the size of a family is a small fraction of the many factors that make a family. My family is unique and wonderful and I am grateful to be a part. I love our many inside jokes, how we always manage to find our own happiness wherever we land, how we understand each other like no one not-a-Wachter could ever understand, how we will give or do anything for each other, how we stick up for each other even when someone is being a jerk and, yes, I love that there are eight people in the world who share my life and DNA.

If you grew up in a big family I would love to hear your take on it! As always I welcome your questions and comments and encourage you to speak openly. I don't offend easily and appreciate frankness. 

Monday, August 3, 2015

Top Three | Summer Coffee

I believe strongly in keeping things seasonal. Weather, clothes, activities...there is a time for everything. Even coffee. In fall you have your pumpkin and cinnamon, in winter the peppermint and caramel but in summer it's all about the sugar. Kidding. Sorta. 

Now, I like my frappuccinos as much as the next guy but they did not rank in the top three coffees of summer...sorry and please don't hate me frappi fans! These three made it because they are simple, unique, completley delicous and, of course, scream pool side sipping. Over the summer months I typically start the day with a hot coffee (French press or espresso with a little half and half), have an iced coffee in the late morning, one of the first two coffees below in the afternoon and a black espresso after dinner. 

Coffee Concentrate
The name does not begin to explain the delight of this drink but, for lack of a better name, coffee concentrate it is. This recipe originated from a really amazing coffee icecream recipe. So it's pretty much like drinking icecream. How cool is that? In a sauce pan combine 1.5 cups very finely ground coffee, 1 cup sugar, 4 cups milk, 4 cups half and half and 1 tablespoon vanilla. Heat on your stove's lowest setting being very careful not to boil until the milk starts to steam. Remove from heat and let sit until cool. Strain and chill in fridge. Serve over LOTS of ice. Alternatively, you can blend with a few icecubes and serve with whipped cream for a more frappuccion esque drink. I shutter to think what the calorie count of this might be. But because it's so rich I only drink a very small serving and try to limit myself to one of two cups a week...depending on my self control. 

Coffee Cocktail 
Breakfast + coffee cocktail + poolside = little bit of paradise.  In a cocktail shaker, shake for 1-2 miutes 2 parts very strong iced coffee to 1 part vanilla syrup (I like Starbucks vanilla syrup). Serve over ice. If you do it right, there will be a nice thick layer of foam and your arm will be sore for several days. Take a few ibuprofen and deal with it because it's so worth it!

Cold Brew
I know, I know. I'm two years late on the cold brew trend. In my defense, Starbucks just hopped on the cold brew wagon so it's not completely blase yet. For this recipe you've gotta start with a really good coffee bean. My family loves The Bean Coffee Company's organic coffees. (And, yes, we do buy the five pound bag.) To 1 gallon of cold water add 4 cups finely ground coffee and let set 12 hours. Strain through a reusable coffee filter (we've used this one for years), chill and enjoy over ice. (I like mine in a straw cup with a splash of half and half.) 

How are you drinking coffee this summer? 

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Currently Reading | JULY

The other day I was  wondering why I started writing these posts. I really can't remember why but I'm so pleased at sticking to it for three months I'm going to keep going through the summer. I Love (with a capital L) reading list posts AND having the opportunity every month to beg for book suggestions is awesome. So here goes!

Bringing Up Bebe by Pamela Druckerman 
Yes, I read parenting books for fun. Don't judge. Human growth and development is amazing.  I love kids but, quite frankly, there are some kids who are so incredibly aggravating they make me want to go out and have my tubes tied. HOWEVER. I believe it is bad parenting that makes bad kids...and likewise good parenting makes good kids. I picked up this book on a whim because the cover was cute, it was a parenting book I had not yet read and the first chapter title was awesome (French Kids Don't Throw Food). Basically reading this book was like hearing my mom give one of her how-to parenting talks. It's a fairly short book but took me forever to get through because if my mom was in the room every few paragraphs I would stop to read her a section with a "Hey, mom this sounds just like you!" And then we would have a long talk about such-and-such aspect of parenting. Which was awesome. While living in Paris Pamela Druckersman, an American journalist, noticed a stark difference between French and American children. Not only were French children better behaved they were happier and their parents less harried. This book, topic by topic (sleeping through the night, eating, discipline, etc.), examines the differences between French and American parenting...and reveals how superior the French philosophy of parenting is. I love how every aspect is really just basic common sense. And I love the idea of definite boundaries and freedom within boundaries for a happier, content, self controlled child. There are a few things I don't agree with (I'm not convinced daycare is the best option for every child) but overall this book is a wonderful, practical manual. 

What Patients Taught Me: A Medical Student's Journey by Audrey Young 
My obsession with medical memoirs is great. I've collected this hugely long list of "doctor books" I've read. Maybe I'll post it someday. What Patients Taught Me is an eye-opening glimpse into rural medicine. Audrey Young chronicles her years through medical school rotations in rural northwest settings with little to no health care. Always having lived in the doctor-saturated northeast, the idea of not doctors or hospitals for hundred of miles is completely foreign. But there are MANY ares in our own US of A where people must travel several hours for medical attention. All I can say is, it takes a special type of person to practice in such a setting and those who do have my admiration.

The House of God by Samuel Shem
Basically EVERY pre-med reading list includes this book as one of the great medical classics. My list does not.  If I could sum up this book in three words they would be: sexist, racist and unbearable cynical. (Adjectives don't count.) Usually I will stick with a book, no matter how crummy, until the end just because I really hate NOT finishing a book. But I just could not stomach The House of God. I read the first three (maybe?) chapters before returning it to the library. So yeah...medical classic or not, not my kinda book.

The Dark Vineyard, Black Diamond and The Crowded Grave by Martin Walker
Apparently, there is a French theme this month. Interesting, since I've never been particularly interested in France. The next three book in the Bruno, Chief of Police series. All three hold true to the charming feel of the first book. I love how each centers on a different industry of the French countryside (wine, truffles and Foi gras) and how much I have learned about various French foods. The mysteries themselves are predictable. Don't read for a Sherlock Holmes quality of sleuthing. These are books you read for the atmosphere.

Aunt Dimity's Good Deed by Nancy Atherton 
My mom got me started on this series last summer. At first I was a little hesitant because of the series title...Aunt Dimity: Paranormal Detective...I'm really not into the paranormal. But, as it turns out, that is a very small portion of the books (the main character communicates with her dead aunt through a journal...more fairy godmother than ghost). The setting is cozy (English cottage) and the mysteries are not your typical mystery. Basically, ideal summer reading when you want to give your brain a snooze.

Everything I Learned in Medical School: Besides All the Book Stuff by Sujay Kansagra 
Judging by the unprofessional cover (I think it was self published), my expectations were low for this book. But it turned out to be a delightful read. The writing itself is less than perfect. But I very much appreciate the author's upbeat attitude and storytelling. It's kinda like reading a blog. A collection of short stories, each highlighting a lesson the author learned in medical school. Not necessarily earth shattering but fun and informative for anyone interested in medicine. 

Well, that was rather it's your turn! What are you currently reading? 

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Does Running for a Cause Make a Difference?

In May I had the pleasure of participating in the second annual Race for Respect, a 5k run for Down Syndrome advocacy right here in the heart of old D.C. The race was pretty near perfect, from the weather to the scenery to the amazing people who ran on Henry's team. And I'm glad I ran. But I'm going to be honest, there were many days whilst trudging my flabby, winter body up hills when I wondered, "Why the heck am I doing this?"

Charity runs are awesome. But you have to ask, do they make any real difference? Obviously, evidenced by the fact that I did drag the aforementioned body through training, I believe
they do. In more ways then one...

Financial - Now I realize in most cases, after overhead, very little of the entrance fee will go toward helping people with Down Syndrome. But some will. And I believe wholeheartedly in the amazing work of the organizations who host Race for Respect and am always happy for the chance to support their work. In addition to providing community support, information and resources for people with Down Syndrome and their families, F.R.I.E.N.D.S. (our local group), DSNMC, CDSPG, DSAGR, DSANV, DSASM, PODS of PGC and DSC grant scholarships to people with Down Syndrome and student going into professions that benefit people with disabilities, help families with medical expenses, advocates for legislation that will improve the quality of life for individuals with Down Syndrome and other disabilities (such as the ABLE act, laws prohibiting abortion based on a prenatal diagnosis of Down Syndrome and laws creating nondiscrimination in access to anatomical gifts and organ transplantation) and much more. At the race I was encouraged when I was introduced to a father of a sweet three year old boy. He shared of attending a Buddy Walk (hosted throughout the region by the above groups and across the country by many others!) when his wife was 20 weeks pregnant with their son and they had just received a diagnosis of Down Syndrome. He said seeing the families of children with Down Syndrome made him realize they were just normal families and reassured him that he, too, could do this. That is awesome and totally worth it.

Making a Statement - You can chose to look when you see the employee at the grocery store/child on the playground/young person at school with Down Syndrome. But you can't ignore 600 people running down Pennsylvania Avenue. When you run for a cause you make a statement to which people must listen. Before Addison was born I did not know anyone with Down Syndrome (now I realize how sad that was!) and I think there are many people outside the Down Syndrome community who can say the same. Events such as Race for Respect and Buddy Walks are a wonderful chance for the general community to get to know people with Down Syndrome and their families! Guys, once you can put a face on the diagnosis it makes the citizen casting their ballot/mother considering aborting their child with Down Syndrome/person mocking people with disabilities rethink their actions. We need to show the world what their missing!

Better You, Better World - Running is physically, mentally and emotionally challenging. So is being Addison's sister. Running is hard. Being Addison sister is even harder. But it is worth it. And if I'm going to be the sister he needs I need to be physically, mentally and emotionally strong to care and advocate for him. In order to reach my greatest running potential a few months out of the year I need to kick running ass. In order to reach his greatest potential, every day Addison must choose to kick ass. To, despite the physical and mental challenges, wake up every morning and fight for every ounce of food...fight for every milestone...fight for every movement. I'll never be able to understand what he goes through on any given day...but I can through demanding more of my body identify with his struggle and be prepared to help him be his best.

As always, I would love to hear your thoughts! Have you ever participated in a charity run/walk? Why or why not do you think they make a difference? Comment below.

Saturday, June 27, 2015

Currently Reading | June

This month...all novels. No shame.

Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
Hmm...what to say about Americanah? Honestly the plot was just eh, okay. The story alone could not carry this book. And I was not impressed by the characters. You get the feeling Ifemelu is supposed to be a strong, resilient character...I just got indecisive and a lot of whine. And the same goes for Obinze. I couldn't attach to any of the characters which is a bad sign for any book. BUT! The redeeming aspect of this book was the chance to see America and specifically race in America through the eyes of an African woman living in America. (American three times in one sentence...I deserve a patriotic award.) Eye opening, it will challenge your thinking. Even though the story was lame, I gotta say, it was engaging. Due to some content and darker themes I would only recommend to mature readers.

Bruno Chief of Police by Martin Walker
This book was really just cozy, fun fluff. Recommended by my librarian, this murder mystery centers on Bruno, Chief of Police in a small town in the south of France. The setting was just so fun and every time food is mentioned (which is often) it made me hungry...Bruno has some cooking talent and hopefully he will publish a cookbook some day! But the best part of this book was the snippets of WWII history throughout the story.

And speaking of WWII...never mind we'll come back to for last, you know. First let's touch on...

A Spool of Blue Thread by Anne Tyler
Love, love, love! A Spool of Blue Thread tells the story of four generations of the Whitshank family. Their struggles, their hopes, their failures. The story centers in their family home in Baltimore. (I love books that take place in Maryland.) It's a book about family...a cross between The Happy Yellow Car and A Tree Grows in Brooklyn. The story is beautiful. The writing is beautiful. The characters, in all their flawed glory, are beautiful. It makes you want to cry and laugh at the same time and really encourages you to treasure family. Can't recommend enough, I will definitely be looking up more by this author! And just to give you a sample of Anne Tyler's writing...

“For years, she had been in mourning for the way she had let her life slip through her fingers. Given another chance, she’d told herself, she would take more care to experience it. But lately, she was finding that she had experienced it after all and just forgotten, and now it was returning to her.” 

“You wake in the morning, you’re feeling fine, but all at once you think, 'Something’s not right. Something’s off somewhere; what is it?' And then you remember that it’s your child—whichever one is unhappy.”

"There was nothing remarkable about the Whitshanks. None of them was famous. None of them could claim exceptional intelligence. And in looks, they were no more than average... But like most families, they imagined they were special. They took great pride... At times they made a little too much of the family quirks—of both Amanda and Jeannie marrying men named Hugh, for instance, so that their husbands were referred to as “Amanda’s Hugh” and “Jeannie’s Hugh”; or their genetic predisposition for lying awake two hours in the middle of every night; or their uncanny ability to keep their dogs alive for eons. ”

Just go read the book before I end up posting the entire manuscript.

All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr
Oh goodness. This book. I've always had a thing for WWII books (not really sure why but there you have it). And this story is particularly touching. It follows three parallel stories: 1. A young, blind French girl, Marie-Laure, as she flees Paris with her father to live with her uncle who still suffers from the ghosts of the Great War 2. Werner, a German boy whose talent with radios and the sciences lands him in Hitler's Youth and 3. The Sea of Flames, a priceless diamond fabled to protect the owner and destroy everyone the owner holds dear. And yes, I know that sounds weird but as the stories of these three come together it makes sense. It's a dark, emotional story but so worth it for the chance to witness a little light in such a dark part of history. Again, I would only recommend for mature readers because of some very dark themes. And I will warn you, it is almost impossible to put down...I read over five-hundred pages in six days...which is pretty much unheard of for me but gives you an idea just how engrossing it is!

I will be back next month and I promise there is nonfiction in the lineup!

Always on the lookout for recommendations...what are you reading?

Until then...

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Caution! This Post Contains Gluten

photo via pinterest
Before we get started I want to preface this post by saying I have the greatest sympathy for any individual who has a medical diagnosis of Celiac disease or a gluten intolerance and I am in no way trying to make light of their challenges. That said...

To be perfectly honest, I am more than a little fed up with the gluten-free trend. Five years ago how many of us gave gluten a second thought? Don't you remember the good old days when we were too busy trashing carbohydrates to pay gluten any attention? Now this innocent, naturally occurring protein composite, responsible for the lovely chewiness of bread and lightness of cupcakes, has become the villain of the grocery store shelves. Bread, once considered the staff of life, is now viewed as a national threat. Grown adults shutter at the G-word. What happened?

Monkey see, monkey do. Keeping up with the Jones. It's human nature. But just because Novak Djokovic's game improved after he was diagnosed with a gluten intolerance does not mean going gluten-free will make you a tennis star. And just because celebrity-not-a-nutritionist, Gwyneth Paltrow, started her kids on a gluten-free diet does not make you an irresponsible parent for letting your kids consume gluten with total abandon.

Nosophobia is commonly experienced by medical students who, while studying a disease, become preoccupied with a particular disease to the point where they are convinced they are suffering from x disease. But let's face it. Headaches, dizziness and weakness can be caused by one of a million things. Including simply not drinking enough water.

Crazes cause individuals to think and do...umm...crazy things! And social media (aka trend breeding ground!) does not help. It starts innocently enough. Mrs. So-and-So is experiencing abdominal pain, headaches and fatigue. After proper testing, her doctor diagnoses Celiac disease. She begins to eat a gluten-free diet and her symptoms resolve. But, wait! You've been having those symptoms as well as irritability and constipation! So you consult Dr. Google. Lo, and behold, right there on Web M.D., your symptoms are staring you in the face. This is incredible! You follow Mrs. So-and-So diet and, miraculously, your symptoms resolve. Pat yourself on that back. You just self-diagnosed. Sheesh, why stay at that desk job you hate so much? You're ready to hang up your shingle and take on patients. Who needs medical school?

Is my snark showing?

First, let's get our names straight. There is a difference between Celiac disease, a wheat allergy and a gluten intolerance. Celiac disease is an inherited autoimmune disorder that affects the lower intestines' nutrient absorption. The Celiac Disease Foundation states an endoscopic biopsy is the only accurate way to diagnose Celiac disease. A wheat allergy is a short term reaction to a substance the body considers harmful. A gluten intolerance is the GI track mounting a stress response to gluten resulting in permanent damage to the intestines.

You know how annoying it is when someone walks in on the middle of a conversation and, not understanding the context, makes a ridiculous assumption? Just because your symptoms resolve, you loose weight and feel great after switching to a gluten-free diet does not mean gluten was the source of your problems. Cutting out gluten means cutting out a lot of foods. It could be your self imposed gluten limitation is discouraging you from consuming processed products and empty carbohydrates and is encouraging you to seek out more nourishing foods. We would all feel better if we replaced processed crap that bloats and weighs down even the best of us with fruits and veggies. And, judging by the taste of most gluten-free alternatives, it wouldn't surprise me if a gluten-free diet encourages portion control...there is only so much dense bread one can take before going crazy.

Ultimately, if eating gluten-free makes you happy, by all means knock yourself out with the rice pasta.  But please do not minimize the conditions by claiming Celiac disease or gluten intolerance without a medical diagnosis. It's not fair to those with a legitimate diagnosis. And it's not fair to yourself. If you are having symptoms consult with a trusted physician. 15 minutes of internet research does not equal 15 years of medical training. If that was the case I wouldn't have nightmares about student loans and MCAT scores. You need to care for your body and self treating could just complicate matters by masking symptoms. Love your body, love your life. Admit you are not your own doctor.

Would someone pass the pasta?

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Currently Reading | May

I know, I know...long time no post! Well it's also been a long time no seven-hours-of-sleep and long time no-time-to-breath so cut me some slack. BUT! I'm planning on a slightly slower paced hopefully we will up the post count on the old blog. Although, when it comes to a choice between writing a blog post or chilling by the pool with a you guys but guess which option wins? I have a tempting stack of book recommendations from my awesome-even-if-she's-never-read-Agatha-Christie librarian. 

And speaking of reading...I had three topics to choose from for today's post. I could tell you about Henry's party...but I don't have time to edit photos...or I could rant about my completely frustration with individuals "self-diagnosing" Celiac...or we could talk about my May reads. You can thank me later for choosing the later. (But consider yourself forewarned of what's to come.)

Take the Risk by Dr. Ben Carson - I did not read this book because I am particularly interested in risk management. In all honestly, I've never given risk management a second thought. But my sister gave me this book because I'm kindasortareally a huge fan of Ben Carson and his amazing work (we can discuss my patheticness later). So I figured I would enjoy Take the Risk but did not anticipate being so intrigued by the subject matter. Surprise! Take the Risk is about learning to decided which risks are worth taking, the importance of taking risk and having the courage the risk. Dr. Carson's B/W Risk Analysis is seriously brilliance on such a simple level that even I understood it. But I will warn you! You will find yourself applying the B/W Risk Analysis formula to literally everything...and learning just how many risks you take on a daily basis and how many more you should be pursuing.

How Starbucks Saved My Life by Michael Gates Gill - The title is intriguing, the book even more so. I'm something of a memoir in tendencies toward devouring them with a passion. It's a chance to see inside someone's head and that is awesome. Anyway... Michael Gates Gill grew up as a son of privilege, had a high powered job he invested everything in and then suddenly found himself alone, jobless...and in Starbucks. Asking for a job. And this once powerful member of the elite is scrubbing bathroom floors. And finding himself genuinely happy for the first time in his life. This book will challenge you to find happiness wherever you are, embrace the joy of serving and will make you really want to work for Starbucks! If my list of reasons Starbucks is the best wasn't long enough...

The Medical Book by Clifford A. Pickover - My mom tells of passing time at her father's desk flipping through the PDR and admiring the pretty, bright pictures of all the pills. (Guys, I seriously want a PDR!) Apparently I'm my mother's daughter...I love the big, shiny pictures in this book of (among other things) anatomy, microorganisms and molecular structures! Basically, this book is a trip through history with medical discoveries as your mode of transportation. Definitely not an in depth exploration of each subject but enough to wet your appetite. And all the pretty pictures!

What are you reading?