great urban race

the great urban race is ridiculously awesome.

any of you who have ever seen the amazing race and loved watching those pairs battling it out to the finish line....you.must.sign.up.now!!!!  we did the houston race yesterday with 4 friends and had the greatest time.  we got 12 clues...then had to find (and travel by public transportation to) 11 places and complete hilarious tasks to get credit.  my husband ate a serrano pepper...and this cookie above...we did the wheelbarrow race and made origami figures...we took pictures with lots of strangers...and generally laughed our asses off.  many of the participants wore costumes--you have to wear matching outfits with your partner--the funniest of which was the banana and the gorilla.  (that poor woman ran approx. 5 miles around h-town in that monkey suit!?!)
all in all, it was 3 1/2 hours of non-stop fun...and i even found a few places in houston i never knew existed.  the nouveau antique art bar....how did i not know about this? (mural above)  i highly recommend anyone who lives in a race city (there are about 25 now...) give it a whirl.  this was the first time in houston, so they expected about 400 participants....and we had 950 people show up!?!?  love it.


discovery #28

i am a storyteller.

i have always had stories. i have led a pretty exciting life--for a girl from peoria. but lately i've been wondering: is it the content or the re-telling that makes for a good story? as i think back to past social interactions, i have strong recollections of bad storytelling. my mother is notorious for this. the actual events could have been hilarious, or terribly sad, or frightening...but told by my mother you felt none of these emotions. and sadly, my mother is not alone.

i could tell you about a routine teeth cleaning and make it entertaining.  i puff up the action, embellish the details, take full creative license in the re-telling. and throughout my life i have always told stories. as a result, my verbal communication skills have the benefit of decades of practice. it is only recently, as i bring these stories to paper, that this discovery has become apparent.

for my creative writing class, we are exploring both fiction and non-fiction. so far, i have submitted two stories--both have been non-fiction. yesterday was my turn to receive feedback on "the wedding story," which is about my backyard wedding, 7 days after hurricane ike hit houston. it's a great story any way you tell it, but i procrastinated and never really developed it the way i planned. in the end, i just stopped writing. i didn't even get to the ending i had imagined...i just cleaned up the typo's and sent it out to my classmates. (with an ann lamott reference to my "shitty first draft" attached)

before my critique began, i made a public apology that my story had been incomplete and a bit boring. everyone looked at my quizzically..."it has great shape" said the professor, "i love the tension" a classmate ventured, "it was beautiful" said another.  i never would have expected such a response. we spent the next half hour discussing my strong use of description and ability to create compassion for my "characters."

i am a storyteller.

even if i felt that it wasn't my best writing...everyone was drawn to the story. i left class feeling that perhaps i should stop judging myself so harshly. and that i am a true believer in building a strong writing community. this group has encouraged me, challenged me, and pushed me to become a better writer storyteller.



when you're in high school this label makes sense. people understand "jock" and "soccer player" and "girl's softball team." you wear letter jackets and accept trophies and go to practice. you are part of a team.

when you're in college this seems to shift. if you aren't good enough to get a scholarship and cannot play on your university team, or if you decide that 16 years of competitive sports is probably enough...then what happens?  are you no longer an athlete? do you need to be part of a formal sports team or league or competition to maintain this label?

my father was a college football player. he played three sports in high school (really well). he was an athlete. all-state trophies all over the place. it was his identity. his senior year of college he injured his knee. bad. he wouldn't play again. he has actually confided in me that this was a really traumatic event in his life and has only rivaled his recent retirement in the matter of his identity.

i started swimming competitively when i was 5 years old. from the age of 7 probably until somewhere around 12 i was really good. broken records, gold medals, state championships. but i was also a gymnast, a softball player, a cheerleader, a diver. when i went to college i played on a co-ed softball league sponsored by a bar and played on the women's water polo team. or rather, practiced and learned how to play polo with the women's wp team--but i still got the cool speedo.

when all this formal stuff ended i wasn't sure what to do.  my best friend and i did the avon breast cancer 3-day walk my first year out of school. (60 miles in 3 days) i did three half marathons and tons of 5K's. i did the hustle up the hancock (run to the top of the hancock building in chicago--94 flights). and then the mother of all challenges: i decided i would do a triathlon for my 30th birthday.

i am 32. this june i will complete a sprint triathlon with my sister and my friend kristin. i have registered for the danskin tri in austin and printed out my 'ole hal higdon training guide. after all these years, i'm still an athlete.


little treasures

the sun came out just in time for me to notice them hiding in the grass...


art days

i love these days when david and i are both working on projects...you can just feel the creative energy in the house. i started the piece above last week when i was feeling the yucks coming on...just selecting the images made me happier. i'm also trying to salvage a piece i had intended to submit for the new outpatient building at work (they're using employee and physician art pieces)...clearly i did not enjoy the monotony of the mosaic tiles. maybe i'll post my progress later in the week...

off to ride our bikes and enjoy the sunshine!


discovery #27

i am actually excited about moving again (for the 3rd time in 2 years!?!)

david and i were laughing the other night about being newlyweds, who are downsizing. usually you live in a modest house first, and slowly upgrade. not us! we rented our first house so we could hold our wedding there. it was a perfect space: good size living room with lots of windows for the ceremony, and a huge backyard for the party. we really loved living there—our first home together as a married couple—until the day we found out our landlord was foreclosing. it was a very stressful few months, scurrying to find a comparable rental in the neighborhood we had come to cherish.

we lost david’s huge studio space, which was a converted garage and spanned the width of the house. but the new house had newly refinished wood floors, an even nicer yard, and…a wonderfully stable and respectable landlord. we’ve been here a year, and planned to stay another, but the commute and high rent is killing us. we knew we could find something cheaper…and without the constant lawn mowing!!

it was a big decision—we’ve toyed with it for a while—sad to lose our respective studios and the storage of the garage and attic for david’s art. but when we found a 2 bedroom/2 bath (an extra bathroom!?!?) for $300 less than we’re paying now, with a 7 minute commute to work…we were sold. we’ll share the studio space in our 2nd bedroom, put the computer in our room, and rent a storage unit for all the big art pieces. but the part i’m most excited about? simplification.

i have been thinking about this concept a lot lately. i look at all the crap i’ve accumulated in the 5 years since my last purge and cannot believe how it multiplies. when i left chicago in 2004, i pretty much left everything. i packed up a few outfits, all my books and memories, and put it into a rented suv. everything else went to my friends, goodwill, or the trash. it was freeing.

and i want that feeling again.



this post was awesome...i just had to share.

as was this one...i'm feeling the same way about my education in writing/blogging. sometimes we need to adjust our original goals/ideas and just keep moving forward. and her photos are amazing...

in my own effort to be authentic, i will say this:  my boss called me "angry" today, and she was right.  it was not pretty. i have way too much debt to be getting that mad at work....i must succumb to the corporate bullshit for a while longer.  i think i can. i think i can.

p.s. that cupcake has nothing to do with anything related to this post. but it sure was delicious.


field trip

over the weekend i decided that i wanted to attempt a "best shot monday" post each week, to get moving with the new camera. well, i completely forgot--yesterday was crazy-- so i’m a little late. but i took a trip across the street to the bayou tonight after dinner...the sun was setting, it was such a nice change from my usual evenings. and yes, i realize that it's tuesday...i promise i'll get the hang of this soon.


trust the process.

although it is against my nature, today i will try to focus on the process, and not the outcome. you must understand that this is VERY difficult for me. i am a product person, i want to find the solution, solve the problem, see results. this has been a constant struggle for me as a social worker, where my role is never to solve problems, give solutions, etc. i am simply a companion on the journey, exploring options and providing education along the way. 

so today i will be my own social worker. i will admit that it is okay to forgo one goal for a bigger dream. my dream is to be a better writer. to write the stories of my life in a way that captures the hearts of readers and allows them to connect with those universal human experiences. last friday i posted that my goal was to submit a story to memoir (and). today i changed my mind. i want to use all of the wonderful input i received from a group of women kind enough to take time to help make my writing even better. to truly do honor both to my sister--whom the story is about--and their gracious efforts...i will wait.

i will not submit something average, just to say i did it. i will ensure that the work i produce is the best i can do, even if i miss the deadline. and as i continue to grow as a writer, i will view every experience as another part of my education. this is what i learned by committing to this project:
  • because of the deadline, i actually did a lot of work on my story (which sat untouched since my class critiqued it months ago)
  • that people are willing to offer their editing skills to help improve my writing (and at the last minute!)
  • i function well with a (realistic) deadline
  • i get anxious when i cannot make a deadline
  • i need to set small writing goals, leading to a final product (yes, i know: write.every.day.)
  • it's okay to change your mind
  • it's okay for the outcome to be EXPERIENCE
i will go to bed early tonight, and not stress about getting something in on time. i will smile when i think of my "team" who put their heartfelt comments and suggestions into improving the story. i will continue to improve my writing and find someplace else to submit it, when it's ready.

i will trust the process.



woooooooooooooo hooooooooooooooooooo!  happy valentines to ME!!!!!  this is the happiest day i've had in a while.  david told me we were going to the camera co-op to "just look"....

get ready for a big change in my blog-tography....

pee your pants funny

i've been meaning to post this since last week...they showed it in our staff meeting.  i'm still laughing....



last year i decided that to keep myself motivated and inspired, i needed to have pre-planned "mental health days" where i'd work on my creative ventures.  today is one of those days.  in 2010, every other month i scheduled a day off to write, paint, take photographs...enjoy. i used to call these "j-day's"...i'd book a hotel room, pack up all my journals, books, supplies, a bottle of wine and spend some quality alone time.

this new idea is a continuation of that theme (but i get to sleep at home with my hubby). now that i've made a commitment to writing, i need long, uninterrupted periods of time to do just that. this morning i edited/wrote from about 8:30-11:30 (by hand, of course) and then another hour or so typing. i'm completely renovating the original story from my creative writing class...which is much more difficult than starting from scratch. but i'm learning so much about how to craft a story the first time. our teacher keeps saying "what am i reading FOR? what keeps us turning the page?"

j-day also involved scouting out some new blogs from this month's artful blogging magazine.  i promised i wouldn't buy another copy since it's ridiculously expensive, but i felt something akin to a crack-addicts yearning the other night to go and buy it. in an effort to pay it forward, here are a couple keepers:
and actually COMMENTING, which i barely have the energy to do on an average day. these are some of my dreams for the new year (it's still new, right?)...to make more connections through my blog, and spend more time on fewer blogs, really getting to know my online community better. i am embarking on a scary adventure of writing and rejection, and i need all the support i can get.

this piece i'm working on is due on monday. i'm planning to send it out to a select crew of "editors" this weekend for a final run-through before d-day. this will be my first "real" submission, besides blogs and little essays. the point of this one is simply the act of submitting...i cannot have any expectations other than the sense of accomplishment associated with this task. i cannot fail.


discovery #26

i hate conflict.

david and i had a fight tonight. one of those that starts off kinda irritating, but then dive-bombs into horrible. not to mention, it occurred during our awful commute home, and on the first day of my menstrual party.

yes. it was ugly.

and as i have been slowly discovering over the past few years...i hate conflict. which may sound like a normal thing--perhaps it is common that people dislike fighting, arguing, punching others in the gut. but i have not always been this way. as a youngster, it seems i somehow sought out conflict. fights with my sisters over clothing choices, music volume, invisible lines drawn in the back seat of the minivan. in grade school, i met up with girls outside the westlake theater with the threat of "beating them up." high school fights at the fair grounds. never-ending battles with my dad through all of these periods.

i never shied away from a fight.

but now i try to avoid conflict at all costs. i hate the tension, the anxiety, the dirty feeling afterward. i hate apologizing--or worse, waiting for an apology. and i especially hate silence. david and i are in the "cooling off" period. the time where we retire to our opposite corners and try to avoid further damage. at least i know the end is near. but i'm still anxious, still have that yucky feeling in the pit of my stomach.

but i'm very much looking forward to the making up part.


on accomplishment...

i actually submitted two pieces today: my This I Believe essay, and a little entry to WOW: Women on Writing. i was so disappointed in my actual writing that i had to do something to make myself feel better.  i got about 4 handwritten pages of the story for my creative writing class, and then the worst.headache.ever. okay, not EVER, but i didn't feel like writing.  (or editing my husband's paper for grad school--oops!)  but now i've run some errands, made a delicious dinner, submitted some writing, and i'm feeling much better.  (oh, did i mention pinot grigio? yes, that too.)

so i wanted to talk a bit about accomplishment.  sometimes this can be achieved by a load of laundry, and a really good night of movie-watching-on-the-couch-with-my-hubby. other days, i have a LIST. you know the kind...totally doable if i never spend a single minute relaxing or sitting still or doing anything ENJOYABLE. today was kind of a mix of both...i had the LIST, but then i decided i didn't care about the list. and since then it has been pretty fabulous.

now i am proud that i made a super-healthy dinner (homemade black bean soup and sautéed brussels sprouts), talked to my mom and sister on the phone, put away all the groceries, AND changed the sheets.  i'd say that's not bad for a day's work. so, i'm letting myself off the hook. the rest will get done at some point.  or, it wasn't really that important in the first place.



i think a while ago i posted something to the effect of: "the universe is conspiring to push me toward my dreams..." or something like that. well.............last night was CRAZY! one of david's friends brought his girlfriend from colombia, she had just gotten into the states, so we went to meet her last night. a bunch of people showed up at the hookah bar, and there was this lovely eccentric woman who sat next to me. it was one of those amazing nights where everyone knows someone, but no one knows everyone. so we talked about all the taboo subjects, religion, etc. and at one point she looks at me and says: "okay, i'm getting something from you." intrigued, i asked her to go on...

"you have a greater ambition. it's bubbling just beneath the surface. an itch that hasn't been scratched. and you are going to be really good at it, it will hold you, sustain you. it will allow you to reach more people. this is the thing you have been preparing for."

i'm paraphrasing now, but DAMN! i almost freaked out in the middle of the lebanese restaurant. i asked if she was one of those people with "the gift." she said this happens with certain people, and she's learned to "reel it in." (she used a fishing analogy.) i was mesmerized. i wanted her to repeat it to david, since he's the only other person who knows about all this bubbling-itchy-dreamy-stuff. but the moment was gone--or she was drunk and couldn't remember--but for that moment in the crowded, smoky porch, i had my own oracle.

when we got in the car and i attempted to retell the story to david, he said simply "i believe in that stuff." and i realized i did too. i am finally listening to what the universe is telling me. i am open to the signs, and i am inspired to follow my heart--rather than taking the safe route. like i told my fortune teller last night, we are just "working out the logistics." it's coming.

and as this dream begins to take shape, i know this is the place for the big REVEAL. stay tuned...


discovery #25

my childhood scrapbook.

now, this is what a scrapbook SHOULD be...hilarious clippings from the local newspaper, programs from dance recitals, the nametag from your first job, mini putt-putt scorecards....wow, i had totally forgotten about this thing. the photo above is the very first page...dated 10-13-81, i was 4, my cousin 3. i have no recollection of this photo shoot, nor the creepy doll that seems to be bigger than katie. our parents started pimping us out EARLY.  style shows were all the rage in the early 80's and i can't tell you how many times i walked a catwalk at the local country club. (at least most were for a charity event!?!?)

i was in ballet and gymnastics most of my young life...i still remember going to the Peoria YWCA for dance classes. the museum and library were right there, as well as the public pool where i got my first job at 15. you know, when you have to get the letter from your parents saying that you can start working while it's still considered child labor. i can picture the driving range with the mini golf attached, but for the life of me i cannot remember the name.  i am now going to google it to stop from driving myself mad. hold on....

wee tee.  man, how could i forget that?

so that's what today's discovery is about...all the memories that get swept out, replaced by a new shinier model, hiding somewhere in that dimly lit attic of our minds.  as i begin writing more and more, i am drawn to the old stories...the ones i've told a million times. the ones that shaped my childhood, made me who i am. "hell no, we won't go"...the sit-in's at my grandma and cousins' houses...our group effort to avoid our individual homes and win the sleep over (with smidgets for breakfast!)

the bradley university chili supper...the autographs of all the players (and then hersey hawkins becoming famous later!!!) getting up at the crack of dawn to go to swim practice at willow...the freezing cold temps before the sun rose, cursing my dad through the first few laps for waking me up. there are dozens of newspaper clippings with my times for every swim meet i ever attended. and apparently i broke two records (for the 25 and 50 yd. freestyle) for 7 year old girls at the central illinois swim meet.   oooooh.

sorry if this is boring you to tears, but i feel like i've just uncovered buried treasure.  like one of those time capsules you're allowed to dig up after 20 or so years. apparently i received an award for my economics poster in 1990, and went to a reception/ceremony.  i was 13...how can i not even remember this?  i also played "ivory" in our adaptation of an old-fashioned soap opera...but this i DO remember.  (our costumes involved fringe....awesome.)

okay, i actually taped "my first fake ID" in this scrapbook.  there are so many things wrong with this, i cannot even elaborate right now.  (and if you haven't noticed, i am actually flipping through my book as i type)  ohmygod, and the certificate stating that i was an official member of eagle flight, when my neighbor let me fly his plane in 1992!  okay, i spent the rest of the time flipping through my undergrad stuff and had some blast-from-the-past-type moments with friends i have totally lost touch with.

so, in the end, it is simply a book of memories. or reminders. reminding me of how much i've forgotten.  what's that bit in "when harry met sally" at the very end when he's trying to decipher auld lang syne ? okay, i've totally lost my focus.