Friday, February 28, 2014

January & February: Things I Learned

web2014 02 06_mexico_0489_edited-1

I announced the week of giveaways, and then promptly didn’t post again. They are coming---just haven’t had time to post. Tomorrow is the last day to enter the $25 Amazon giveaway in the Oscar Contest!

I’m making the time to post today, even though there still isn’t time. Emily Freeman is hosting her Let’s Share What We Learned series, and I’ve learned I have to make time---because it is never gonna just show up. I’ve already made my image above with the number 5, so I’ll have to limit myself to that. Self-imposed limits are a good thing.

1. Did you know you can go online to Sam’s Club and fill your cart and they will have it waiting for you the next day? It’s called their Click n’ Pull service.

I did not know this. When the very nice clerk told me this, I almost cried. I’m not a fan of Sam’s in general (there’s no Costco in Grand Junction). Still, every three or four months we restock our house with paper goods and toiletries. It involves a two hour drive each way, and normally Brian is the one who takes on the Sam’s Club list while I take the boys somewhere fun, like Target. This time I went solo, which is lovely in terms of the time alone in the car but horrible in that I have no time to run into Michael’s or the children’s resale shop, as I had hoped, because Sam’s Club sucks the life out of me (and because Sean had to be picked up from violin at 5 while Brian was coaching Nolie’s soccer team).

I really wish I had learned this two days ago. When I told Brian about my amazing discovery last night, he nodded nonchalantly and said, “Yeah, I knew that but I kinda enjoy walking the store.” This man suffers from NON-DISTRACTION. He is capable of going in and out of Sam’s club in less than 40 minutes. He is capable of going into Target and coming out with only the one thing that was on his list, and doing it in less than 5 minutes. Very strange.

2. “Nacho Libre” has a 40% score on Rotten Tomatoes, but a 100% score in our house. If loving this is wrong, I don’t wanna be right.


3. Instagram=InstaLOVE


I’ve been wrestling with a lack of camera-mojo for a while. Every day photos, especially of my own kids, has always been my passion, but since I started taking photos for clients, I’ve found myself reluctant to pick up the camera in our own house. The idea of getting even further behind in editing---or spending more time in front of the computer---killed my mojo. Enter the iPad and Instagram.

The photos aren’t great, though VSCO and other apps do allow you to separate your focus from your light meter. But that’s part of the joy. I am not going to take any of these photos into Photoshop or Lightroom, so I don’t equate them with more time. And even if I am 4 yrs late to the Instagram party, I’m madly in love. It’s just social enough…no political pronouncements or NYT article links like Facebook (I find those article links hard to resist!). Just pretty photos to inspire.

4. “I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud” was one of the first poems I ever memorized, and I was shocked to learn that lines of it came from Woodsworth’s sister Dorothy’s journal. Based on her writings, it appears she would have been pleased that he used them, so I’m not sure why this shocked me so…or leaves me with so many more questions.

But it has.


5. It’s time to get serious about getting healthy.

My beautiful cousin, Mary Ellen, passed away last week at age 48. She’s in the center of the photo above, along with my cousins Geralyn, Patricia, and Nancy. That’s me in pink in the corner, and possibly my brother John at the bottom.

Mary Ellen had Type 1 diabetes since she was a young girl.

My heart breaks for her daughter, Eileen, losing her mother at such a young age.

I want to be around a long time, and to be healthy while I’m here.

And that’s five lessons so far for 2014.

Monday, February 24, 2014

2014 Oscar Contest

2014Best Picture DOK Photo_edited-3

If it makes you feel any better, I do feel hypocritical after all my criticism about the Olympics. The Oscars are just as silly, though a few billion less costly. I sometimes think it is time to let it go, as taste is so subjective and unlike speed skating (but quite like figure skating), there really is no “best.” And yet…

I’m nostalgic for nights in my family’s TV room (that’s what we called the back den, complete with dark paneled walls), our ballots in hand, waiting in anticipation for a montage that would include an old favorite.
Just as the Olympics--- at its best--- celebrates human athleticism, the Oscars celebrates story-telling.

And, finally, it’s the 2nd anniversary of my little experiment with DOK Photography, so it is time for a week of giveaways! Let the party begin.

I’ve created a little ballot for your downloading/printing pleasure here, but it only includes the ten categories I’m using for our contest. You can find ballots with all the categories at

Regardless of how many movies you’ve seen (we never let that stop us), I want to know your vote.

Please leave a comment below with your picks, numbered 1-10. Comments will close at midnight on Saturday, March 1st. Whoever has the most correct picks will receive a $25 Amazon Gift Card to purchase the DVD of their choice or a lot of Junior Mints---it’s up to you!

And the nominees are…

1. Best Picture: American Hustle, Captain Phillips, Dallas Buyers Club, Gravity, Her, Nebraska, Philomena, 12 Years a Slave, The Wolf of Wall Street

2. Best Director: David O. Russell for American Hustle; Alfonso Cuaron for Gravity, Alexander Payne for Nebraska, Steve McQueen for 12 Years a Slave, Martin Scorsese for The Wolf of Wall Street

3. Best Actor: Christian Bale, Bruce Dern, Leonardo DiCaprio, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Matthew McConaughey

4. Best Actress: Amy Adams, Cate Blanchett, Sandra Bullock, Judi Dench, Meryl Streep

5. Best Supporting Actress: Sally Hawkins, Jennifer Lawrence, Lupita Nyong’o, Julia Roberts, June Squibb

6. Best Supporting Actor: Barkhad Abdi, Bradley Cooper, Michael Fassbender, Jonah Hill, Jared Leto

7. Best Animated Feature Film: The Croods, Despicable Me 2, Ernest & Celestine, Frozen, The Wind Rises

8. Best Original Screenplay: Eric Warren Singer and David O. Russell for America Hustle, Woody Allen for Blue Jasmine, Craig Borten & Melisa Wallack for Dallas Buyers Club, Spike Jonze for Her, Bob Nelson for Nebraska

9. Best Adapted Screenplay: Richard Linklater, Julie Delpy, Ethan Hawke for Before Midnight, Billy Ray for Captain Phillips, Steve Coogan and Jeff Pope for Philomena, John Ridley for 12 Years a Slave, Terence Winter for The Wolf of Wall Street

10. Best Original Song: “Alone Yet Not Alone”; “Happy”; “Let It Go”; “The Moon Song”’; “Ordinary Love”

Download the Oscar Ballot pdf here to see the nominees with the title of their movie (I got lazy here). In case of a tie, whomever posted the most correct picks first will win. So post early! I’ll post my picks in the comments as well.

To Enter: leave a comment below (not on Facebook) with your 10 picks numbered in the order above by midnight on Saturday. I’ll announce the winner in this post on Monday, March 3rd. Thanks for playing!

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Living a Tailor-Made Life


At the end of our Peace Corps service, Brian and I heard a lot about the challenges of transition, how hard it was adapting to life back in the states. I can picture how I rolled my eyes at the notion. One, because I was in my early 20s so I thought I knew a lot more than I did, and two, because rolling my eyes had become an automatic response to any flip-chart presentation, and three, because how could life in the US be hard?


Life in a small Russian village was hard. But life at home? Where water came out of a tap rather than the well down the road? Where you turn the thermostat to heat up your home rather than chopping wood? Where you literally push a button to wash your clothes? I struggled to remember what exactly we had found burdensome about laundry prior to our life in Russian and I couldn’t fathom it.


So, despite all the forewarnings, I was slightly blindsided by my struggle. I loved the return to running water and to our family and friends. But it was also hard. Hard to find our footing, and hard to carve out a new life.

At times it seemed we didn’t fit in anywhere. Our old friends had been busy pursing careers, often ones we were shocked to learn they didn’t like but wouldn’t consider changing. Around our Chicago friends, who all had homes and children by then, we seemed like perpetual adolescents. Around our nearest Peace Corps friends, who were living in a tree house--yes, a real one, and still chopping wood for warmth, we seemed like sell-outs and rank&file capitalist.

If comparison is the thief of joy, then reading---or more preciously, rereading is the balm of sorrow. I turned to an old favorite, Henry David Thoreau’s Walden. I knew these lines from Chapter 2 by heart and they had helped me explain why I wanted to join the Peace Corps in the first place:

Thoreau Inked


This time, though, it was his final chapter that helped me make sense of my own state. “I left the woods for as good a reason as I went there. Perhaps it seemed to me that I had several more lives to live, and could not spare any more time for that one. It is remarkable how easily and insensibly we fall into a particular route, and make a beaten track for ourselves.”

And a few paragraphs later:

I learned this, at least, by my experiment: that if one advances confidently in the direction of his dreams, and endeavors to live the life which he has imagined, he will meet with a success unexpected in common hours.

He named what I had been struggling to pinpoint---the kind of success I wanted to pursue: success in the common hours. We needed to imagine for ourselves the life we wanted to live, rather than look to others. We would try to avoid unintentionally falling into a route or rut. We would reject an “off the rack” life---one of busyness and materialism, and instead, seek to define our own version of success: community, simplicity, and unexpected joys. And when I began this blog in 2007, that was the reason for its original name: in the common hours.

Tsh 1

I’ve just discovered a new book, sure to become an old favorite too. Notes from a Blue Bike: The Art of Living Intentionally in a Chaotic World, by Tsh Oxenreider, reads like a modern-day Walden, if Thoreau had to make dinner for three kids and go to Parent-Teacher conferences too. Like most of my favorite places online, I first discovered Tsh and her site The Art of Simple via Ali Edwards’ blog (her site was Simple Mom back then---and I remember the first post I read too: years later, it’s still worth reading).

All great writing fuels my desire to put our story into words, thus this late night blog post when I really should be sleeping. What I love most about Tsh’s book is that she never takes a preaching tone. She doesn’t claim to have figured out how to live a perfectly intentional life. Yet she’s brave enough to share her imperfect journey toward simplicity. Her writing style is always more descriptive than prescriptive---and I thrive on that. It’s precisely why I enjoy blogs---not because I want to do what they’re doing, but because looking at their choices helps me examine my own.

Here’s the official description:

Part memoir, part travelogue, part practical guide, Notes from a Blue Bike takes you from a hillside in Kosovo to a Turkish high-rise to the congested city of Austin to a small town in Oregon. It chronicles schooling quandaries and dinnertime dilemmas, as well as entrepreneurial adventures and family excursions via plane, train, automobile, and blue cruiser bike.

The book is divided into sections on food, work, education, entertainment, and travel. I was thrilled to receive an advance copy of the book, and want to dive into it more deeply here on the blog over the month of February. If you’d like to be part of the Blue Bike Blog tour too, you can learn more here.

If you’re one of my clients and a new mom, you will find inspiration as you begin tailoring your own life to fit your vision for your family. If you’re an old friend, then you’ll get why I love this book---it reads like a chat over a cup of tea, and celebrates how small choices in how we live our ordinary days have huge impacts---often met unexpectedly in the wonderfully common hours of our lives.

Grab a copy here, and join me with your favorite hot beverage to dive into the food chapter on the 15th. Happy reading & happy living.


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