Sunday, November 3, 2013

Concert Reviews: Atlas Genius and Pearl Pearl Jam Jam

It's been a great few weeks for live music and I was lucky to see some amazing performances, one of which gets the Best Concert I've Ever Been To award.

Atlas Genius, Family of the Year and Little Comets - It's no secret how much I love the boys of Atlas Genius so was thrilled to hear they were coming to Charlotte again.  Last time was November 1, 2012, so it was time. I had never heard of the opening act Little Comets but was surprised and hooked immediately.  They remind me of Vampire Weekend, some songs more than others, but the overall sound and feel is infectiously poppy.  The second act was Family of the Year.  Their song Hero made my music list earlier this year so I was looking forward to seeing them, but sadly I was disappointed. I'm not sure if I just didn't connect to the lyrics or overall vibe of the band, but I was glad when they were done.  Then it was Atlas Genius time. The boys had bulked up a bit since I saw them last time but they sounded just as good as ever. They are releasing more new music so I was happy to hear song after song that I knew. They are working on album two and I am rooting for these kids.

Pearl Jam x 2 - I was never a huge Pearl Jam fan but recently started listening more and more and was surprised at how many songs I knew and how many I actually liked. I had never been to a  show but headed up to Charlottesville, Virginia for the October 29th show. We had decent seats on stage right and at first we were surprised that the arena seemed less crowded than we thought.  The lights dimmed, the band took the stage and when the lights came back on, wow...packed.  I had been studying up on Pearl Jam songs so I would be familiar with the music and was glad to hear a ton of songs that I have grown to like, some love.  As with most of their shows in this tour, they started with Pendulum, off their latest album.  This is the perfect "first song", slow but builds to a pretty sound. The entire first set was strong and I am sure more knowledgeable PJ fans could talk for days about each and every song inclusion. There were a couple of songs I really wanted to hear but unfortunately none of those were played.  One of the highlights of the show was Sirens. This is by far my favorite song of theirs. The sound is beautiful and the lyrics are wonderful. My favorite line: "If I think too much I can get overwhelmed by the grace by which we live our lives with death over our shoulder."  I love that line.  I love this song. They played many other great songs, took a short break and then came back for a very intimate set including Thumbing My Way, which I had never heard before but loved immediately.  A lot of their new stuff is really great so I was excited to hear so much of it (when is that ever said about a concert?).  They threw in a few covers too including Pink Floyd's Mother and Little Wing by Hendrix. About half way through the concert I was pretty hooked. You cannot deny that Pearl Jam is a fan's band. Their website lists every song they've ever played, how many times and where they played it, who wrote it and lists the lyrics.  They release professional bootlegs of every concert after the tour so they can make sure that random people don't charge a ton of money for horrible quality versions.  City specific shirts and posters are sold so people can commemorate not only the tour, but the specific night and city where they saw Pearl Jam.  Each night the set list is created specially for how the band feels and they change it up based on Eddie's read of the crowd.   But more than that, and here is something I don't think I can really explain adequately, is how passionate the fans are for THEM.  There were people in the crowd with signs that said "Thank You".  TO THE BAND. Who does that? Even before the show we went to a local bar that was PACKED, and since I had just walked three miles in heels I desperately needed to sit down. I asked two guys if we could join them and of course they were also going to the show. We chatted about the band, the tours and life in general. There was an overall sense of "you're here for Pearl Jam, that means you are a good person."   At one point during the show I just looked around and was utterly amazed at the overall vibe of the entire arena. And while I mostly think that "Lead Singer Banter" is scripted, it seemed like the band was having just as much fun as the rest of us. It seemed spontaneous, genuine. If it was choreographed, props to them for making it seem real. From the first time Eddie spoke, saying "Good Evening, we'll talk later. First I have a story to tell you" I was enamored with him. His stage presence was warm and friendly, his sense of humor evident and his voice was clear and much prettier in person. There were a number of other little moments that stood out for me: Eddie stopping everything to check on a scuttle in the pit, talking with some young kids in the front row, offering them wine, commenting on them knowing every song since it is great to know there will be at least two PJ fans when the guys are in their 80s, They wrapped up the show with a cover of The Who's Baba O Reilly that had the entire crowd screaming at the top of their lungs.  I honestly cannot remember having more fun at a show. They ended the show saying "If you could see all the great faces from up here, you'd be very grateful and you'd probably  keep saying thank you and thank you and thank you like we are doing right now, but you'd understand if you could see what we see.  Thank you" We all walked out smiling, high fiving each other, knowing that we just were part of something awesome.  Amazing, just amazing.

We drove home the next day and prepared for the Charlotte show. We had pit passes for this one so headed down early to get in line for the general admission. I really wanted a Charlotte  poster since I have a collection of band posters, so loved the city specific one. I stood in line for 30 minutes chatting with the people around me. Most were talking about shows they had been too and I immediately had street cred saying I was at Charlottesville.  It hadn't even been 24 hours and the show was already known for being amazing. The posters sold out 6 people in front of me. ARGH.  Assured there were merch stands inside, I went to wait in the general admission line. We had pizza and drinks and talked with our neighbors. There is nothing like the instant bond you can create with someone standing in line, it made the two hours go by very quickly. As soon as the doors opened, I headed to a merch stand while my new friends headed to secure our space in the pit. I was able to get a poster, walked to the pit and was thrilled to see I would be 2 people back from the stage.  I don't care what band is playing, being that close is a neat experience. I love seeing the set up, the "behind the scenes" things that happen that most people don't get a chance to see, and being that close to a legend is always a treat. The show started with Pendulum again and then they proceeded to play hit after hit. I don't know it was just different than Charlottesville or I was tired or they were tired, but it seemed like there was a bit more of a laid back vibe. Don't get me wrong, it was still fun and amazing, but in a different way. They sang more of the well known "sing along" songs like Even Flow, Daughter, and Black.

Again there were two songs I really wanted to hear (Chloe Dancer and Let The Records Play) and sadly, I was disappointed that neither of them were played. I was more upset when I saw the original set list HAD LTRP listed but it was replaced with the famous Better Man.  I am not a huge fan of that song, but I liked it live. I was happy to hear Just Breathe (another great line: I'm a lucky man to count on both hands the ones I love) and I was taken by surprise when I got teary eyed during Sirens.  Have I mentioned what a great song that is? I was pretty happy to hear Getaway live and now can say I was there when they played it for the first time.  Overall the concert was great, the crowd around us was into it and there is nothing like making eye contact with the band members to feel more connected. I even was lucky to get one of Mike McCready's guitar picks.   Eddie passed out wine to the pit and gave a tambourine to one of my new best friends from waiting in line. Again I walked out of there smiling, glad to have been part of something so special.

Many people have told me that they "just don't get it" in regards to Pearl Jam but I think those people still think of them as the twentysomethings with long hair, wearing flannel and heading up the grunge movement. And to be honest I don't know that I would like them as much as I like the 50 year olds that I saw twice this week.  They and the shows are so fan-centric, it is hard not to leave there feeling like they tour just to make the crowds happy. Many people talk about how unintelligible Eddie's singing can be (check out this hilarious video of Yellow Ledbetter  "I said I don't want a whale in a box or a bag; Potato Wave"). The band has an amazingly comprehensive listing of all the lyrics online. I read through many of the songs and was so impressed with the poetry and imagery that is created. Some of the songs are utterly beautiful. I was also so surprised at how clear and pretty Eddie Vedder's voice is. And honestly, no matter how you feel about their music, you have to respect the fact that this band has been around, viable and rocking since 1990.  These (old) guys still are able to create new music that is really good, entertain and put on an amazing show.  While I've never seen The Stones or Zeppelin, I have seen many concerts and many of those have been legendary performers, but I can honestly say I have never been to a show that felt like such a mutual love fest between artist and crowd. If you get the chance, go see them. I guarantee you will walk away amazed, smiling and utterly happy.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Oh CANADA! Race Review

I have trained for races, run them and felt great afterwards. Training has included watching my diet, long runs, short fast runs, long at tempo runs. I have stood in the starting corrals and felt excited, ready to challenge and push myself.

This was not one of those races. I did virtually no training, running a mere 6 times in the past year and my longest run was 2 miles. I can offer a million excuses as to why I didn't train but ultimately my priorities are very different than they were two years ago.  But I was excited about seeing Shelia run her first half and was looking forward to the road trip, so packed my bags and drove to Detroit.

We lined up in our corrals at 6:45am, in the 40 degree darkness.  I didn't even wear my timing chip since I was planning on walking and didn't want this time on my permanent record.
The gun went off and as my section crossed the start line, peer pressure kicked so I started running. I actually felt pretty good running so kept running. The sun started rising and as we approached the bridge to Canada, I was still feeling strong, remembering why I sign up for these things in the first place. I stopped to take pictures, (one very cool perk of not caring about time) and as soon as the slope of the bridge changed, started running again.  I had one of my best mile times ever, running into Canada with a 9:30 pace.  I was having a great time, high fiving border patrol officers, talking with nearby runners. It was fun.Miles 4-6 continued in the same way. I counted up how many half marathons I have done and thought maybe I could do one more to get to 10. I was in love with running; that I was running.

We entered back into the US via a tunnel which was cool to see, but it was hot and stuffy.  I did stop again at the US/Canada line, but was relieved to get out of the tunnel and be back in the US>

Miles 7-9 were rough. Everything started hurting. A lot.   My hip flexor starting hurting and that is unusual for me.  I popped more Aleve. My feet starting hurting.  I remembered why I said this would be my last race.

By Mile 10 I wished I knew Detroit better so I could cheat.  Surely there was a faster way to finish.
Mile 11 brought out the hate.  I hated the couple holding hands walking in front of me, I hated the 500 pound person who lapped me.  I hated the 86 year old man that passed me at such a speedy clip he startled me.  I hated running, I hated myself for not training. I hated. Everything.

Mile 12 was the longest mile ever. I continue hating everything and since I was downtown, I was super annoyed with all the people who are were just walking around the course. They were crossing the street in front of me, I hated them. I hurt.

A half marathon is 13.1 miles and many people leave off that .1 but when you are running it, holy hell that .1 is as long as any mile before it. I turned a corner and could see the finish line and started running.  I don't care how sore I was, I vowed a long time ago to never cross a finish line walking and this was no exception.

I crossed the finish line, grabbed my medal and chocolate milk. Usually I feel amazing at this point but really I just felt blah. I was impressed with my overall time of 3:25. I was thinking it was going to take me 4 hours so I was quite happy with a sub 3:30. But mostly I just hurt.  A lot.

I had said going into this that I was not going to do another half but part of me wishes I had gone out on a higher note. But my life is so different than it was two years and so are my priorities. So I am not saying never, but it is going to take a lot!

As far as races go, the Free Press International is pretty great. The pre race expo was large with an OK amount of free stuff and packet pick up was easy.  Crowd support was amazing with people lining the entire course. There were plenty of water stations giving out water or lemon lime gatorade. There were several live bands at "entertainment stations" throughout.  Overall organization was good and there were plenty of port o johns along the course. The medal is a nice size and heavy and the dual US/Canadian ribbon is very cool.  It is a large race which is nice since you don't feel like you are going to be last. The course is mostly flat with a few inclines going up the bridge and climbing out of the tunnel.  The weather was perfect - 40 and clear when we started and ended up in the mid 50s. It was windy on the bridge, but overall the course was pretty, and it was pretty cool to cross into Canada and then back into the US. I'd absolutely recommend this race.  I would NOT recommend running it without training though....HOLY CRAP I AM SORE!

Friday, October 4, 2013

September Music

Still loving the way music is trending these days! 

The Wire by Haim - a fun poppy song.
Get Me Golden by Terraplane Sun
Sirens by Pearl Jam - OK there is a backstory here. I have recently listened to A LOT of Pearl Jam and while some is good and some I don't really like, I have been following the countdown to their new stuff.  Say what you will about them, but the longevity is impressive. The first track from their latest album "Lightening Bolt" is good, but distinctly punky. I had listened this, their second released song the day it came out and thought I really liked it.  Fast forward a few weeks and I was listening to the radio, not really paying attention and all of a sudden I heard the music playing and thought "Wow this is pretty..wonder who this is."  It was Pearl Jam.  I was just as shocked as you.
Loud Like Love by Placebo
Bad Blood by Bastille - you may remember Bastille from last month. I like them.  A lot. I would be very surprised if a Bastille song wasn't on my Amy's Audibles for 2013.
High Road by the Cults - Speaking of Amy's Audibles, Cults has been featured for their song "Go Outside".  I really like them for their etherealness that is sweet and haunting at the same time.
Why Do You Only Call Me When I'm High - Artic Monkeys - love the tempo of the refrain
Wrecking Ball - Miley Cyrus - I know.  I know.  But crazy stunts aside, I like her music.  And the lyrics are good. (I put you high up in the sky - And now, you're not coming down - It slowly turned, you let me burn-And now, we're ashes on the ground  I know.  I feel ashamed listing it.  But there ya go.
Changing of the Seasons by Two Door Cinema Club - LOVE the Lyrics.  LOVE. 

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Is it....Seitan?

(To find the humor in the title, you must know seitan is pronounced Satan and  have watched SNL during the late 80s.)

I really don't mean to be a no meat groupie, but IT IS SO EASY TO NOT EAT MEAT!  I have less than 3 weeks until my "no meat training period" is over and honestly, I don't know that I will go back.  I haven't missed it, at all, and I feel good.  I have always been freaked out by WHERE meat comes from, went a month not eating chicken after I made eye contact with a chicken on a Tyson truck that immediately turned into the Tyson plant, and hate dark meat because I think it tastes too bloody and that freaks me out. I needed the meat to be totally cooked through because rare meat or even shades of pink made me gag.   It's been a comfort not having to think so much, and really, how often do you eat meat with no flavorings, marinades or sauces?  Rarely.  

So last night I tried seitan for the first time and was so pleased.  Seiten is a wheat gluten,  first developed in China and is popular in the cuisines of Japan and other East and Southeast Asian nations. In Asia, it is commonly found on the menus of restaurants catering primarily to Buddhist customers who do not eat meat. It is super high in protein and has a chewy texture so is often called the Wheat Meat.  Read more here.  

I have been craving curry chicken salad with grapes, but knew tofu, even extra firm tofu, would not have the texture or the solidity needed for the recipe.  Intrigued by the wheat meat name, I decided to try seitan. IT WAS SO GOOD!  It really does have the same texture as chunks of chicken and the curry dressing was the flavor I wanted.  Add in grapes and some almonds, and this was the texture and taste I had been craving, without meat!  I used this super simple recipe, went light on the curry since this was my first time and am giddy with the result.   

I have never been one to experiment in the kitchen, but there is something incredibly freeing about using plant based products that do not need to be COOKED as much as prepared. I don't have to worry about not cooking the chicken enough and getting sick.  I am EXCITED about recipes now, no longer JUST searching for vegetarian options, but knowing I can substitute in a meat alternative and be good to go. 

Yes, I know that me not eating meat is not going to stop the world from killing animals.  I actually agree with self sustaining farms and that way of life.  But for ME, I feel better not eating meat, and that is the most important thing.  And now that I know I can just substitute plant based product in my favorite meals, I don't have to miss a thing!   PS Happy World Vegetarian Day!  Yes, it's a thing.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Fall TV...meh

Usually this is one of my favorite times of the year but I am some what underwhelmed by TV's offerings this fall. Maybe it is because Showtime and networks like USA and FX have produced such great shows all year long that fall TV isn't the breath of relief it used to be. But even with that, I am still sure I watch too much TV.  Thank goodness for Dish Network's Hopper!

How I Met Your Mother - CBS - 9/23 - I have watched this since day 1 and even though the past few seasons have not been the best, I am committed to these characters and will watch this, the final season, where we FINALLY meet the mother. Update: I was recently asked "Haven't you grown out of that show?" Sorta, but I am two episodes in at got a little teary eyed at the last one...and that is why I still watch this show.
Almost Human - Fox - 11/4 - This new sci fi show features Michael Ealy as a law enforcement android who is partnered with a human to solve crimes.  I give this a 50/50 shot of making it, but I LOVE Ealy and have followed him since I first saw him in Sleeper Cell so will watch this and root for him.

Sleepy Hollow - Fox - 9/16 - OK to be fair I will NOT be watching this.  It is getting a fair amount of positive hype, but I just don't care.  But in case you do, check it out. Update: I lied.  I watched this.  It was OK.  I watched two episodes and the guy who plays Ichabod is charming and funny, but I don't think I will seek it out on a regular basis.

Blacklist - NBC - 9/23 - I am a fan of James Spader but was initially turned off and thought this show was too close to Hannibal. I've now seen more and it is certainly intriguing and possibly the show I am most excited about seeing. Update: THIS IS SO GOOD.  By far my favorite show of the season.  James Spader is excellent in this role as smarmy, evil-but-you-like him.  There are long term twists and mysteries but each episode is a one and done which I like.  Just great all around. 

Marvel's Agents of SHIELD - ABC - 9/24 - Despite an obnoxiously long name and really no idea what this is about, it's JOSS WHEDON.  JOSS WHEDON.  I'd watch people sleeping if Joss Whedon was involved.  Update: Yep, Joss is great.  This is good.  It's all there - action, humor, great dialogue, special effects, so it is totally worth watching. It's a bit of a super hero Warehouse 13.   I don't LOVE it like I have with previous shows of his (or Blacklist), but I won't miss an episode.

Brooklyn Nine Nine - Fox - 9/17 - Do I think this will be good?  Nope.  Not at all.  But I like 25% of what Andy Sandberg does so I will give it a shot since my Hopper records more than one show. If it didn't, I wouldn't care if I missed this. Update: Surprise of the season, this is really funny.  It reminds me a lot of Parks and Rec, and has delivered solid shows so far.

Supernatural - CW - 10/8 - you know who else I'd watch sleeping?  Either of the Winchester boys or Cass. Watched this from the beginning, will watch til the end.

Lucky 7 - ABC - 9/24- I don't have high hopes for this show since it is getting virtually no publicity, but I am behind in Person of Interest so have an opening at 10.  This is about lottery winners and maybe it will make me never want to win. Update: I had good intentions to watch this show...but there is too much else on.  Haven't watched a single episode of this yet.

Tomorrow People - CW- 10/9 - If you are looking for comedies,  there is another season of Modern Family and new contender Rebel Wilson's Super Fun Night. But I am looking forward to another guilty pleasure, Tomorrow People, about a high school (I said guilty pleasure) that learns he has special powers like teleportation.  This is based off a 70s British hit,so I will watch, (and probably not tell anyone I do).

Top Chef - Bravo - 10/2 - After watching Masterchef this summer, my love of cooking shows is renewed,  I took a few years off from Top Chef but am looking forward to seeing the show in the new location setting of New Orleans.

Thursday (Or Hopper Appreciation Day)
Parks and Rec - NBC - 9/26 - The funniest show on TV.  Period. Update: Still many funny lines in each episode, but with some key characters leaving, not sure how I feel about its future. But til then it is Lit-trally the best show on TV
Big Bang Theory - CBS - 9/26 - I was late to the Big Bang Bandwagon, but I like it.  Makes me laugh.

The Millers - CBS - 10/3 - I will watch this based on Will Arnett and Margo Martindale.  I have no idea what it is about but MARGO MARTINDALE.  That is all. Update: Only one episode in, but I really liked the pilot and that is hard to do. Margo Martindale is fantastic, Beau Bridges is a comedic surprise and I just love Wil Arnett.  There were a few laugh out loud moments for me and a solid "awwww" so I am in.

The Crazy Ones - CBS - 9/26 - Robin Williams and Sarah Michelle Geller team up as father daughter Ad exec team. Something about this quote about the show really hit home for me: "Dad worries he is becoming irrelevant while daughter fears her pop may be going off the rails." Update: Two episodes in and this is a solid OK.  They give Robin Williams a number of options to ad lib comedy and those parts are truly inspired. Sarah Michelle Geller plays a nice serious foil and is called Kitten by her dad, so yeah, I will watch this religiously.
Reign - CW - 10/17 - Been waiting for a Mary, Queen of Scots teen drama?  Yeah, me neither.  But I will check it out for at least 3 episodes since I am sure it will be very different than the rest of my TV watching.
White Collar - USA - 10/17 - I love Neal Caffrey but the relationship between he and Peter was the part I loved the most.  Season 5 begins with Peter in jail so I am not sure how much I am going to love this storyline.

The Michael J Fox Show - NBC - 9/26 - How can you not want Michael J Fox to succeed?  This show parallels his life but promises to not ONLY be about Parkinson's. I have loved Fox when he has guest starred on The Good Wife and am rooting for him to do well.

Covert Affairs - USA - 10/7 - This show has been on this summer and it is getting increasingly far fetched, and that is saying something.  I love Auggie though because the actor that plays him personally tweeted me once (I know, it doesn't take much to impress me)  so will watch this until it becomes utterly unbearable.

Haven - SyFy - 9/13 - Yes, I am skipping Raising Hope, Enlisted and Shark Tank.  Sure if I am home and there is nothing else on, I might watch one of those. But mostly I don't care.  I DO care about Haven, which is creepy and sweet and odd and stars Eric Balfour, the hottest man with the longest face ever.  Add in Lucas Bryant and the show has some pretty awesome eye candy. Update: I am surprisingly hooked on Shark Tank and super geeky pleased when I see one of the products in real life. Haven is also really good this season with the addition of Colin Ferguson.

Sunday (I Love my Hoppa, part 2)
Revenge - ABC - 9/29 - Last season was decidedly eh, but this is truly brainless TV so I will watch for at least 3 episodes this season and see how it goes from there.Update:  It's just OK. If I miss it, I won't miss it. 
Good Wife - CBS - 9/29 - Another show with a less than stellar 2012-13 season, but the last two episodes were strong and I was surprised by the cliff hanger of an ending. Still a bad season of this show is still better than many shows out there, so I will watch for sure! First episode reminded me of the strength of this show.  Not sure how they are going to stretch out the secret all season, but I still am a fan.
Homeland - Showtime - 9/29 - Filmed in Charlotte, I will watch this show forever, just to support local film industry. It helps immensely that the show is great, with suspense, intrigue and a never ending gut feeling that you don't quite know who is good and who is bad.  Also, Damian Lewis is hot.Update: Episode 1 was so good and we never saw Brody! I have confidence that any doubts that may have risen in season 2 will be immediately dispelled in season 3.
Shameless - Showtime - January 12 -Just when you think that Frank can't be any more deplorable, he hits a new low. When we left last season, my favorite character Jimmy was missing (or dead) and Frank did something noble.

Masters of Sex - Showtime - 9/29 - Showtime produces great shows so I am looking forward to this new offering about Masters and Johnson and the revolution of sexual ed. Update: I could not be a woman in the 50s. Episode 1 was interesting and I will keep watching, if anything to see where it goes.
House of Lies - Showtime - January 12 - I am intrigued by this show and the end of last season was sad and shocking with most everyone turning on Don Cheadle. I am not sure where they are going to go, but I will watch and find out!

Episodes - Showtime - January 12 - Hands down the funniest, smartest show you've never seen.  Can't wait til January!

Monday, September 9, 2013

Martin Wentzel Hill: December 20, 1916-September 8, 2013

My grandfather, Martin Wentzel Hill, died last night at the age of 96.

The funny thing about being a 39 year old woman with grandparents still alive is that you tend to just kinda assume they will ALWAYS be alive. He has brothers and sisters older than he that are still living. I used to joke that my mom's side of the family is part roach...they were going to live forever. It may be irrational, but I started to believe that. It's strange to think he is actually gone.

He was born in 1916 and would have been 97 this December. It's crazy to think of the changes he had seen in his lifetime.  He raised four children, was grandfather to seven and great grandfather to two.  To me he was Pop-Pop.

Cousin Bridget, Mike and me in the tree.
Strong, stoic, smart, kind, he was hilarious in a way I too late realized. Growing up we knew he was REALLY angry when he would yell the German phrase "verdammt sau donner wetter".   It wasn't til later I realized that the phrase I was so afraid of was "Damn Pig Thunderstorm".  He liked to kid me, a picky eater, "tempting" me with such fare as scrappel and chow chow.   He'd eat anything and the Pennsylvania Dutch's influence was easy to see. I passed on the "gross foods" but never passed up Shoofly Pie.  We always lived at least 8 hours from them but I remember spending most summers at the stone house he built, playing in the "crik" and climbing the big tree in their back yard. I remember catching fireflies in that yard, dancing in circles practicing being a ballet dancer in the basement, reading stacks of National Geographic magazines, getting pizza from Esposito's, sledding down the hill in the winter.  We moved around but Reading and the house at 1723 Friedensburg Road was my constant.  When I think of being a child, most of my memories happened in Stony Creek.  I still remember their phone number, neighbors, exact details of the street, the front yard, the back yard, though it is smaller than I remember (or I'm bigger).

With a full tuft of white hair on his head, he was always an imposing figure. But he softened as he aged, and while we generally didn't get along when I was a teenager (both of us stubborn and I was pretty much a shit), I am glad that I got to spend some time with him as an adult. On a summer road trip in 2008, I stopped in and spent the day with them. We  talked and talked and that was the first time I fully realized how great of a man he was; how smart, funny, stubborn and how much of an influence he has had on my family and of course, me.  On that trip he took me by the house he grew up in, talked about meeting and courting my grandmother, building the house I knew and loved, and his time in the Navy. I could have stayed up all night listening to him talk about his time in the war and one of my biggest regrets is that I didn't record every word he said.  We went by the local cemetery to see the graves of family members and I asked him if that was where he was going to be buried.  "Oh no" he snapped with such indignation I am sure I offended him with my question.  He will be buried in the national cemetery.  "I earned that" he told me. I don't think that is something my generation can appreciate- the pride of serving our country. As he aged, his body failed. He fought more cancers than I can remember, but his mind remained sharp.

The last time I saw him in person was in 2010. I drove to Boston for my friend Stacey's mom's funeral service and I stopped by on my way  back. I had to return to work so only stayed for dinner and again was reminded of how great of a man he was.  I wished I could have stayed longer, SHOULD have stayed longer, talked more, absorbed more and come to know him more for the man he was, than just my grandfather.

Today is he and my grandmother's 74th wedding anniversary. She doesn't remember much of anything; Alzheimer's has wrecked havoc with her brain. God surely has a sense of humor that my grandfather could be so mentally acute while his body failed him when exactly the opposite is happening to my grandmother.   But when I think of my grandparents, I will forever think of my grandfather sitting at the end of the table, my grandmother seated next to him, in her left hand a cup of coffee, in her right hand, my grandfather's hand on her lap.  Always coffee..always holding hands. The love he had for her is enviable and ever lasting.

There are too many memories to capture on on this blog; they flash in my mind when I think of him; the anniversary party we had in Maine with generations surrounding him (was that 50th?), the anniversary party we had in Reading, the week we spent in the Virgin Islands, him teaching me how to put up the flag in the front yard, shopping at Boscov's, the joy in his voice when I called him on Veteran's Day.

So to my grandfather, my newest guardian angel, thank you for your sense of humor, intelligence, your kindness, your nose (Ok, this I could have done without, or preferred a cute little one).  Thank you for the work ethic you instilled in your family, the love you passed along.  Thank you for being a Truly Great Man and showing me that honor, love and dignity exist. I am proud to be your granddaughter, to have Hill in my blood.  I love you and always will.

Friday, September 6, 2013

Music Update...from June - July and August

A few weekends ago I had a spend the night party with my friend Cara. I've been friends with her since 7th grade, when we bonded over silly teachers, bad puns and growing pains.  We've stayed in touch over the years and states and I was thrilled when she and her husband moved to Charlotte in 2001.  We've just gotten closer, proving that immature humor never goes out of style!  So on a Saturday night we each dragged out the old diaries and photo albums and had a blast reading what 14 year old us deemed important. There were lots of comments about boys ("When I danced with George our stomachs touched and it felt WEIRD"") but the thing I thought was the funniest was that every diary had a section where I listed all the songs I liked.  Nice to see that I haven't changed all that much,  though thankfully my taste has!

Work has been crazy, so here are my favorites from June - August.  When I get a chance I might list my favorites from when I was 15 so you can appreciate musical growth.

Land of the Gathering by The Ceremonies - Just a feel good, fun to listen to song.
Alive by Empire of the Sun- Toe tapping song, really funky video.
Afraid by The Neighbourhood - I continue to love these guys and am so glad I got to see them in person.
Royals by Lorde - This 16 year old New Zealand girl may be my favorite new artist in a long time.  I got my hands on 6 more of her songs and love all of them.  This was the first to hit mainstream US and the lyrics make me happy.
The Love Club by Lorde - seriously love her.
Biting Down by Lorde
Tennis Court by Lorde. OK last one.  I promise.  I just like her voice and the lyrics.
Thunder Clatter by Wild Cub - Great song.  Love how it picks up as it goes along.
Summertime Sadness by Lana Del Ray - the Cedric Gervais remix -Still pretty sure I am one of 4 people who like Lana Del Ray, but I won't apologize for it at all!
Head on by Man Man - Sure I like the song but fell in love with this band called Man Man when I found out their twitter name is ManManBandBand.  Gotta love a sense of humor.  And really,"Hold onto your heart, even when your body's bitter"  Yes.  Their album comes out 9/10.  Buy it.
Lost Generation - Rizzle Kicks - I am a big fan of pretty much anything Rizzle Kicks does. It just sounds like summer to me.  #trend
High Hopes by Kodaline - This is an Irish band that I love for their hautingly sad sound.
All I Want - the song that introduced me to Kodaline.
Brand New Day - Kodaline, kinda happy.
Little Games by The Colourist - you may be familiar with this song from a Samsung commercial.  I like it anyway.
Awkward by Fildlar - this is very 80s punky to me, but the lyrics make me laugh "Didn't know I'm really good at making you feel awkward"."
Doing OK by Wretch 32 featuring Jacob Banks - Bet you are saying Wretch WHO?  It's a British rapper/MC/DJ.  I love the sweetness of this song's melody.
Grow Old With Me by Tom Odell - Yes I did feel like I was punched in the guy when I heard this kid was born two years before I graduated from high school.  But 1990 birth date aside, I love piano in a song and this is both sweet and dirty.  And I've always loved the Robert Browning poem that has this line in it "Grow Old with me, the best is yet to be."  It's my inner romantic coming out.
Flaws by Bastille - Been a big fan of Bastille since Pompeii hit, but again, my inner romantic loves the "all of your flaws and all my flaws lay there hand in hand" line.  Seems such a realistic picture of a love;  "there's a hole in my soul...can you fill it?"
Things We Lost in the Fire by Bastille - since I am singing the praises of Bastille, might as well continue with this haunting and sad song and sadder video.
Kids by Mikky Ekko - No, this is not another little British boy, though you might think that listening to this. He is American and his claim to fame til this point has been that he was in Rihanna's song Stay. which I also like.   
Hopeless Wanderer - Mumford and Sons- It seems like you either hate or love this band and I happen to love them. I love the sound, their voices, the words and the meaning. And then there is this video which features Jason Sudeikis, Jason Bateman, Ed Helms and Will Forte, which makes me love them even more!

Hope you enjoy the music.  I can't believe it is already September.  I need to start working on my Amy's Audibles list and this year is going to be another hard one. Music is trending in my favor.  LOVE!

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Updates: No meat, running, camping, oh my!

It's been a bit since I blogged so you can correctly surmise that work has been slammed.  I've written many a blog in my head but haven't had the time to type them here is a summary blog of updates.

No Meat...No Problem.  It's been almost over two months and I can honestly say it has been EASY to go no meat. Between meat supplements like Tofurkey deli slices, Boca crumbled meat and Tofu, I have been able to replace the texture of most meats that I used. I just recently found roast beef and that makes me insanely happy. I feel great and thanks to a lack of fast food, I am down 10 pounds.  I honestly am really surprised that this is not a big deal, but it isn't.  Friends have been very supportive, even though most think I am crazy. But bottom line, I feel better, it isn't expensive, I haven't craved meat and I've lost weight.

Running alone sucks. I remember when I was training for my first half I constantly thanked my running partner Cindy, telling her I could not have done it without her. She would always tell me I could.  Welp, no. I can't.  I set my alarm. I lay out running clothes. I wake up...wide awake...and lay in bed. I don't even go back to sleep.  I just lay there thinking "I should get up. I should run.  I will feel better if I run."  And yet I stay in bed. But I guess there is something in knowing one's weaknesses, right?  I reached out to my neighbor and a co worker who also runs. I have NO PROBLEM getting up when I am meeting someone else. I am usually awake anyway. I AM always glad I run, but need the accountability.  So thanks to those people, I have gotten a few runs in.  My mileage is still low, but thanks to my co worker, my time is faster. So there is that.  My friend Kelly recently reached out so hopefully I can get longer runs in on the weekends. I am slow and feel so far away from the person that ran a marathon last year.  It's so frustrating...I know the only way for me to get better is to run, but I am so horrible, I hate running.  Ugh.

Our Blazin Buddy
My Cute Tent!  
It seems like such a silly thing, but I decided a few years ago that I wanted to try camping. It seems like such a great idea, but was told I wouldn't like it so could never get anyone to go with me. FINALLY I went camping this weekend!  My friends Mike and Jon along with the Gaddys joined me on my maiden voyage to Julian Price Lake off the Blue Ridge Parkway.  It was so much fun!  We met for lunch at Macado's in Boone and then headed to our campsite. We originally had a lake front site reserved, but after being told we could only have one tent there, we splurged and bought two other campsites nearby.  It rained when we first got there, but after an hour, it stopped and we ended up having perfect weather. We set up our tents as well as a pop up tent over a picnic table. The people before us left a fire going with some wood so that hurdle was handled. Mike and I went to a local store to buy firewood but they were out so we ended up getting a Blazin Buddy We kinda laughed at it, and even one veteran camper stopped and asked us if we liked it, but it ended up being great. We cooked dinner.  One really good thing about being a vegetarian.... I don't have to worry as much about food being cooked!  We got meatless burgers and basically just needed to heat them up.  We wrapped them in foil and threw them in the fire. Perfection!   There was a lake and originally I wanted to go canoeing, but honestly that just seemed like too much work once I was there. So we sat around our picnic table, drank, ate and played a hilarious game that Jen brought. Once it got dark we made smores, had a light saber battle (because why not?!) and since the entire campground seemed to quiet down, we headed to bed.  I had the cutest tent, inflatable mattress with color coordinating sheets and quilt of course!  

Mike and I slept really well but Jen, Charlie and Jon all reported less than two hours or sleep total. I did wake up earlier than expected thanks to some rowdy and very loud cub scouts at the campsite next to us. We all agreed next time we would try some place a little more remote (and congratulated ourselves for not maiming them in anyway). But laying there, in the cool mountain air, with the birds chirping was pretty perfect for me.

The Happy Campers
View from Campsite
The only really bad thing was the bathroom, or as they called it, the "Comfort station".  I had  read Trip Advisor reviews saying the facilities were in really bad shape so I was expecting the worst. In fact, I brought my own toilet paper just in case. We had to walk a little bit to get there, and there were only two toilets.  Apparently one had a "trick to flushing it" as one lady told me, but I could never get it to work, and neither could most of the other campers apparently.  Most of the time I went, that toilet would not flush.  So....there was one toilet for all of loop A.  Really this didn't end up being a huge deal though. And while I would never use the words Comfort Station, it was about what you would expect for a common use, outside toilet. It flushed. The toilet paper was cheap.  There were bugs and the floor was constantly muddy and wet.  BUT, the toilet paper stayed well stocked and I have seen far worse bathrooms in gas stations and it was still way better than a port a jon.  So....toilet crisis averted!   I do go to the bathroom frequently so that is one thing waking up three times a night, stumbling to the bathroom and then stumbling back in bed. I can usually fall right back asleep.  But getting up, unzipping the tent, putting on shoes, getting a flashlight, walking down the road to the "comfort station" and then reversing the process fully woke me up. So getting back to sleep was not as easy as home.  But given the alternative of not drinking or being closer, I'd still choose getting up and walking!

So basically things are going pretty well.  Work is slammed, but in a good way.  Overall I am feeling really happy and that is a very good thing.  Consider yourself updated!

Monday, July 8, 2013

Week one - Check!

I told my friend Mike, a vegetarian for the past 10 years, that I am fully aware that I may be one of those annoying people walking up to him and saying "Hey have you tried breathing this oxygen stuff? It's fantastic!"  I am surprised at how good some of the vegetarian options are, annoyed at the lack of fast food options and feel like telling everyone how easy it is!  I have been fully vegetarian for a week, but been 80% vegetarian for three weeks.  And yes, it's been surprisingly easy.

To sum up my experience so far, I don't really miss meat like I thought I would and I have lost 5 pounds. 

Details, by way of addressing common Objections/Questions:

What am I eating?  This really hasn't been as hard as I thought. A typical day consists of a protein shake for breakfast, orange for a mid morning snack, veggie burger (either from Burger King or a Morningside Black Bean burger with salsa), PB&J crackers for mid afternoon snack, salad with pan fried tofu for dinner.   I have just started experimenting with tofu and been pleasantly surprised. It basically tastes like whatever seasoning I put on it but has a chicken like texture when cubed and pan fried.  Last night I bought a General Tso's Chicken seasoning packet and just substituted the tofu for chicken. It was REALLY good.  I served it over rice, with a fortune cookie on the side and I think even the most finicky eater would have liked it.  It seems that every vegetarian sets a line for themselves...some still eat fish, some have binge days once a week, some called vegans, eat no animal products at all.  My line is death....if an animal had to die for me to eat it, I won't.  So that means I still eat eggs and cheeses and will have milk (though almond not cow).  I did buy some Boca meat substitute and will use that in a Mexican way.  But between the protein shake, the tofu, peanut butter and the fake meat, I am getting enough protein for sure. That seems to be people's number one concern, which is funny because it really is not a challenge at all to hit my daily recommended protein.

How am I feeling? This is a hard one for me to say exactly.  I don't feel noticeably more tired or weak.  I am taking an iron and potassium supplement (I was already doing that) and added in B12 since there are some concerns about not getting enough since that only comes from animal products.  I did do a meat binge on the last day of the month to try to clear out my fridge and holy crap did I feel horrible.   I haven't been running...schedule, rain, back pain and mostly laziness have gotten in the way, but I did do a 30 mile ride on Thursday.  That was 10 miles more than I am used to and boy did I feel like crap at mile 25. It was also way faster than I am used to riding, so I think I felt so bad more because I am out of shape than because of my diet.  Did I mention I also skipped breakfast that morning and had gotten drunk the night before?  Overall I feel fine, my face has cleared up and I have lost weight.  To be fair I am not sure how much of this is because of eating a vegetarian diet or due to NOT eating fried foods and sugars that my diet with meat contained.

Do I miss meat?  Not really.  I am kinda bummed that I JUST got my grill up and running and that made me crave a hamburger, but I am just going to get a recipe for a meatless burger and try that as well as grilling tofu.  But for the actual meat, not really.   I did have a craving for McD's the other day, but that really can't be counted as craving meat, and I ordered a small French fry and that did the trick.  I think that there is a social aspect of meat that is there (I was able to eat bread rolls, salad and cake at a wedding this weekend) but I am not craving the taste of meat.

Is it more expensive?  The jury is still out on this one.  I have done one shopping trip and it cost me $53 and that should hopefully cover me to for two weeks.  I would like to eventually get into the routine of going to the farmer's market each Friday and buying produce for the week, but am not there yet. I do need to find places that I can get more meat alternatives.  I'd like to try the fake chicken and the seitan that I have read about but my local Wal-Mart does not have ANY vegetarian options and the Food Lion only has fake meat crumbles. 

I am glad I am doing this for at least 4 months. I will be able to see if my body likes this lifestyle. Will keep you posted.

Monday, June 17, 2013

Where's the Beef?

I am about to write something I would have bet millions I'd never say: I am going vegetarian.

To be honest I have been thinking about this lifestyle for awhile.  Three of my closest friends are some variation of vegetarian and that has made me curious. I also know that I have to do something different in my diet to better manage my weight and my skin health.  But why vegetarian?

In the beginning of the year I asked my friend Shelia to just THINK about doing a half marathon with me.  She said basically.. "I don't want to think about it because then I might say no. So I'm in!"   The race I want to do is in Detroit, this October, so my training program starts this week.  I am not worried about the running; one thing the marathon taught me is that I can do anything I set my mind to and even though it has been forever since I did a long run, the prospect of running 13 miles is no longer a big deal; I just need to get the training in.  Shelia is just starting her running journey and is a bit nervous; the idea of running 13 miles seems daunting to her.  Shelia is also a vegetarian.  I am so thankful that she agreed to run this half with me since we can motivate each other, but it didn't seem fair that she was worried about running and I was not.  It seemed like there needed to be some aspect of this that was a challenge to me.  I am a runner and she has committed to being one.  She is a vegetarian, so I decided I would commit to be one as well and train for this race as a vegetarian.  It only seems fair. Daunting yes, but fair.  We are both pushing ourselves to a new goal.

Many people may immediately say you can't do endurance sports on a vegetarian diet but there are actually mounds of research to combat this and basically it comes down to basic nutrition.  You need protein; most people get that from meats and chickens, but that is not the only place to get protein. So as long as you are smart about it, you can get all the nutrition from a plant based diet.  And God bless the Internet, because you can get a ton of information on diet. Shelia referred me to The No Meat Athlete and my friend Mike referred me to Vega Sports and the book Eat and Run by Scott Jurek.

I ordered Eat and Run and have read The No Meat Athlete. One thing that I really liked was the mention of a "Before 6" transition plan. Basically it says that after a lifetime of eating meat, your body might have a hard time transitioning off meat, so it recommends being a vegetarian for all meals before 6pm, which leaves the dinner time to have meat in it. This plan eases you into vegetarianism since most people are used to a meat centric dinner. I like it because I grocery shop for the month so have a stock of chicken and hamburger in my fridge already.  I am one of those people that budgets out exactly what I spend on food, and since I have already spent my June food budget, I can't afford to go buy all new vegetarian food.  So I can transition my body, get used to eating vegetarian but also make use of the food I already have.  I already take iron and potassium supplements and will add a B12 since that comes almost entirely from animal meat. I already don't do dairy so that won't be hard to limit and since I am still able to eat eggs and cheeses,  I should have enough protein.

To say I am nervous is an understatement. Unlike my vegetarian friends, I LOVE meat. I crave a good steak, love chicken, turkey is my favorite meal. Sure the thought of the whole killing an animal makes me sick, but as long as I stay away from the process, I am OK.  I did go 6 months without eating chicken after I was driving next to a truck filled with chickens, made eye contact with one right before the truck pulled into the Purdue plant. But I eventually recovered and now chicken is a staple. And it's not just the craving that makes me worry; it is the socialization.  Dinners with my parents are steaks and hamburgers and any other meat that is on sale that we can grill.  I am heading down to see my bestie Margaret and worried about being a guest in someone's house and being a problem "don't eat meat" person.  I feel pretty good about eating out; most places at least have a veggie burger I can get.  But overall I feel like a child who has just been told they can't have something and now want it more than ever.

If it were easy it wouldn't be a challenge.   So today starts my training program.  I ran this morning and I will not eat anything that was alive during the days. Then starting July 1, I will be completely no meat for the duration of my training program.  Then after? I think that depends. I believe that everyone's body is different and it is important to do what your body needs. If I feel better and have a ton of energy on a plant based diet, then I will stick to it.  Or I might do some combination like Sandy, who doesn't eat anything with legs.  I am leaving that decision up to my body.  Now I just need to get my head on board!   

Monday, June 3, 2013

May Music

It's June.  How did that happen?   Here are my favorites from May.

Without a favorite song in a long time: Blurred Lines by Robin Thicke with TI and Pharrell.  Great beat, funny lyrics and I think Pharrell Williams looks adorable in the video.  I can listen to this over and over again.  LOVE. 
Hurricane by MSMR - new duo from NY...haunting, pretty, odd.
I Love You by Said The Whale - Listen and tap your feet.  It's pretty perfect and I love it.
Aviation High by Semi Precious Weapons - I seem to be going back and forth between poppy and ethereal pop and this is the latter...if it fits anywhere. Is Happy Haunting a thing?   We're alive alive and apparently so are parachute pants.
It Never Stops by Bad Books - OK so this is one of those "technically published in 2012" songs, but I like it anyway.  I'm a fan of Bad Books, even though I am not a huge fan of Manchester Orchestra.
You and I by Crystal Fighters- back to poppy - take a listen to this summer song and feel happy.
Instant Crush by Daft Punk/Julian Casablancas - OK Daft Punk is one of those bands that has done so many random things over the last few years you probably either love them or hate them.  Generally I really like them so was pretty excited about their latest release.  So they get two inclusions this month...this slightly annoying and yet hooky Instant Crush and then....
Get Lucky featuring Pharrell Williams - OK so I may have a wee crush on Pharrell.  He's a cutie.  This song is awesome.
Diamonds by The Boxer Rebellion - I have a book next to my computer and when I hear a song I like I write it down. If I look and I have already written it down, I star it to note that I really like it.  This one has a ton of stars.  Really like it. The band has been around since 2001and their stuff has been in a ton of commercials and tv shows.

Have you watched Blurred Lines yet?  Bought it?  It's so great!!

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Plant Your Own Flowers

I still remember my first break up when I was 18. I sat on the floor sorting cards at the Hallmark store where I was working, sobbing to Whitney Houston's "I'll Always Love You."  What an overdramatic slobbery mess I was!  My dear friend Mandy gave me this poem and it became my mantra to get over my heart ache. 

I recently pulled the poem up for a friend who is facing a heartbreak and read it again with fresh eyes. While I have always thought of it as "The Break Up Poem", I think it really should just be required reading for women in general.  This poem in many ways defines who I am; I plant my own garden.  Life throws you a lot of hits and you need to be able to navigate your way through all that crap and come out on the other side.  Relationships come and go, grow and change, whether that is a friendship or romantic relationship, how you handle that inevitability speaks volumes about your character. So whether you are facing a loss of love, a death of a loved one or are just a girl finding her way, read this poem and see it not as sad, but as strong, hopeful and happy.  Then plant your own garden and live.

Comes The Dawn - Author Unknown*
After awhile you learn the subtle difference
between holding a hand and chaining a soul.
And you learn that love doesn't mean leaning
And company isn't security. 
And you begin to understand that kisses aren't contracts
And presents are promises. 

Monday, May 6, 2013

Concert Review: Capital Cities and GoldFields

If you are a frequent reader of this blog the name Capital Cities may be familiar to you as they were on my best of 2012 list for their song Safe and Sound.  Then they came out with Kangaroo Court and I knew I had become a major fan.  I got tickets to the show but wasn't sure if I was going to go.  It was on a Friday night and I am usually exhausted on Fridays, but bailing on a concert because I was tired made me feel old and yet the thought of going seemed like so much effort.  I was explaining my dilemma to a friend who encouraged me to go, even though he had no idea who were were going to see.  I knew he was right, rallied, and off we went. 

The opening act was Australian band Gold Fields, fronted by Mark Fuller, the most adorable lead singer possibly ever.  Their song Dark Again is pretty solid and after seeing the frenetic energy that the drummer had as well as the general attitude from the guys, I am hooked.  Seriously. ADORABLE.  Put him in my pocket adorable.  (I probably am old enough to be his grandmother.)

Then Capital Cities came out...all wearing white jackets a la Grease.  They started the show with a bizarrely awesome cover of Sinead o'Connor's "Nothing Compares 2 U" and I was in love.  There were choreographed moves, tongue and cheek lyrics and they taught us a dance and got the whole crowd to (try) to do a simple side step move. We were relatively close to the stage and the people we were standing near were all into it too, adding to the overall feeling of pure joy.  One of my favorite songs was Farrah Fawcett Hair. Listen to the lyrics and I hope you will chuckle too.  It's Good Shit. 

The entire band just looked like they were having a great time dancing and playing on stage.  When they played Safe and Sound they encouraged us all to jump up and down and we is hard to be there and NOT bounce along. They delivered a pretty long set including a cover of Staying Alive and Celebrate by Madonna.  But for me the part that made the biggest impression was when they put Safe and Sound on a automatic play and all the band members jumped into the crowd and danced and jumped along with us.  It was such silly and pure fun, a bunch of adults in a socially acceptable form of playing.

I can't remember the last time that I left a concert feeling so light and airy and happy and was thrilled that my friend also liked the band.  So many times I am alone in the music that I love, so it was great to see him smile and say he got why I liked them so much. The music is great, but the sense of happiness they inject into the crowd is even better.

If you get the chance to see them, PLEASE go.  I guarantee you will walk out with a smile on your face.  I know it when I hear it and Capital Cities is certainly Good Shit.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

April Music

I can always tell when I am busy at work because my music list is short. It's not that there isn't new music, it is just that I am too busy to pay attention.  There are only a few on here, so it is eaiser for you to enjoy!

Late Night by the Foals
Recovery by Frank Turner
Don't Swallow the Cap by The Nationals - THis is the third single off their album Trouble Will Find Me Out and I have loved each one as much as the last. Sweater Weather is such a sexy song to me and this is a slightly happier song.  Really digging this band that first made Amy's Audibles in 2010 with Bloodbuzz Ohio.
Get Lucky by Daft Punk featuring Pharrell Williams

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Love Yo Self

Over the years I have realized and been told, that I have a pretty decent self esteem.  I am not really sure what my parents did to foster this positive characteristic, but I am so glad they did. Of course I am not perfect, and I have moments where I hate this or that feature, but for the most part I am completely comfortable in my skin.  I own 23 bathing suits and don't feel awkward in a pool or a beach.  Am I as thin as I'd like to be?  No.  But I also realize that I have 100% control over that and really, if you are not going to be my friend/date me/etc because I could lose 40 pounds, well you are a horrible person and missing out on something great.   Have I always hated my nose?  Yes, though now am able to laugh at the Gonzo nickname I had in high school. 

I am writing this particular blog for two reasons.  I have a friend, who shall remain nameless, that recently went bathing suit shopping with me. She works out consistently and if you were to describe her, you would use words like thin, tiny and toned. Yet for her, putting on a bathing suit was horrible. She concentrated on every flaw on her body and was noticeably uncomfortable.  She was not able to look at herself in the mirror, in an adorable suit and say "hey, this fits me well and looks nice on me."  All she saw was wide hips, big thighs and a bit of extra padding around the waist.  I kept telling her how cute she looked, but she was never able to see it.  I was frustrated and heart broken. 

I realize that everyone is their own worst critic and God knows I have my days, but it made me so sad to see her so down on herself for no reason.  It just isn't right.

Then I saw this video, and it brought tears to my eyes.  Watch it.

Why is it that people judge themselves so harshly?  Why is it that our society stresses botox to remove the lines instead of celebrating the laughter and the smiles that caused them? Why can't we be half as kind to ourselves as we are to strangers?

I know there are no easy answers and just as I cannot identify why I am so comfortable in my skin, I can't tell you why others aren't.  But if you are reading this blog, take a look in the mirror and look at yourself through someone you love's eyes.  Realize that they don't see the tiny flaws that are huge to you...they see a smile, kindness in your eyes, a friend, a sister, a son, a daughter, neighbor.  

The Boston Marathon bombings prove that there is a lot of sadness and cruelty in the world.  We all feel like we are fighting battles daily.  Just make sure that the first battle you encounter isn't with yourself.  Love yourself, fat rolls, wrinkles, jiggles, big noses and all.

Monday, April 1, 2013

March Music

Super Rich Kids by Frank Ocean - if you didn't know him before the Grammys, I am sure you have heard his name by now.  I first came to know him from the song No Church in The Wild that was featured in Safe House.  I immediately bought that's a good one (though from 2012). You will hear that a lot as The Great Gatsby gets closer to being released.
Swim Deep by The Sea - Ethereal pop.  I love.
Pompeii by Bastille - Another little British Pop band, but they are opening for Two Doors Cinema Club so I think they will keep growing. 
Duet by Everything Everything - you gotta love a band that has a song called "Photoshop Handsome".  I think this is such a pretty song.
Chocolate by The 1975 - I could listen to this song over and over it. This is a new British band that has also opened for TDCC.  Interesting fact:  the name comes from a suicide note, telling of the owner's fall into insanity. It was dated 1 June The 1975. 
Next Year by Two Door Cinema Club - Speaking of TDCC, they have new stuff out - yay!  OK technically this came out in 2012, but this is hitting the radios now and I love it.
Elephant by Tame Impala - funky, funky, love it, love it.  "Bet he feels like an elephant shaking his big grey trunk for the hell of it."

Monday, March 25, 2013

Definitions of Family.

Working late one night in 1996, I grabbed a fax off the machine and my life forever changed. We got faxes often, companies and non profits hoping for free PSAs on the station, but honestly most of them were thrown away.  This one with its bold "CALL FOR EGG DONORS" caught my attention.  You could donate your eggs?  I took it over to my co-worker and said "did you know you can donate your eggs?"  She immediately replied "that is HORRIBLE."  Hmmm.  I kept my mouth shut, but her immense hatred got me thinking.  I didn't think it was horrible, in fact I thought it was amazing.  I did some research and read countless stories about women who more than anything wanted a child but couldn't, and how that affected their esteem and their lives. I thought about it for a few days and then discussed it with my parents and Joe.  I knew early on I did not want children, but after reading the stories of the childless I suddenly felt selfish, sitting on this ability, this gift, and just choosing not to use it just because.  With my parents' and Joe's support, and without telling my co-worker, I signed up, went through the emotional, physical and intellectual tests, and ultimately donated my eggs twice.  The first time resulted in twin boys, the second time with twin girls.

I am immensley proud that I donated my eggs and helped two couples have children. Because I had experience with egg donation and the IVF process, I offered to help Sandy when she was trying to conceive. I am forever thankful for my donation because essentially it is the reason I have Sandy and Miller in my life. Over the years I have hardly given any thought to the biological offspring of mine, because that is what they are, offspring.  I am no more their mother than they are my children. I signed away my right to ever find them, but they have the right to find me should they wish, but I figured this would never happen.

A close friend of mine had an accidental pregnancy when she was 15 and decided to give the baby up for adoption. We have talked several times over the years about this decision and she has since had two gorgeous children with her husband.  The other morning I got an email from her; her ex had forwarded her the link of a woman 22, who was looking for her biological parents.  My friend wanted me to look at the pictures; did I think there was a resemblance?  The facts checked out, could it be her child?  I looked at link and immediately sent her a text "without a doubt, that is her".  She looked so much like my friend in some pictures, and yet others I could see the father.  The girl is undoubtedly a blend of the two of them and the likeness jumped off the page at me.  There is no doubt in my mind.

My friend is going to connect with her biological daughter; she always knew this day would come but the reality is a bit scarier and she is working out the details of how, when and what to say.

Being on this website that is a collection point for adopted children and parents, made me think about my own decision and wondered if there is an egg donor registry.  I did some searching and while it is not anywhere close to the structure of the adoption site, there is an online collection point for donor and children of donors. You have to pay a fee to be listed, and all that you give is the time you donated, the city and donor number if you have it.  I do not have that and don't remember ever knowing it.  I have no idea how many donations were made in Charlotte in the last 16 years, but there are only three donors listed, so obviously this is not a very popular thing to do.

The first set of twins will be 16 this year, the second set only 14. I have a few more years before this would even be a possibility. And honestly, there is the chance that the mother never told the children they were donated.  Since the mother does become pregnant and gives birth, and it was the father's sperm, there is the chance that they never told the children they were not 100% genetically theirs.

I think it would be neat to see them, if there is a resemblance, do a little nature versus nurture experiment, but that is all.  I donated the eggs, I am not their mother. I know that and should a child come knocking, that is what I would tell them.

I do think it raises an interesting discussion though regarding the availability and tracking of egg donors and similarly, sperm donors, meaning there is none. If you are a child born of an egg donation, you really have no resources available to find the donor. Whether it be for health reasons or just out of curiosity, it is interesting that an adopted child is supported in a search for birth parents but donor kids are not.  Maybe this is just a function of time, egg donation is fairly new and the children are just now hitting their 20s.  There are a few more options for children of sperm donors as that system has been around much longer and has been revolutionized over the years. It is going to take someone who is a egg donor baby, who is curious, and has the desire to create a system to be logged, or worse yet, create some legislation that will unseal documents.  Until then it will just be the few that seek out the limited resources that are available.

For me, I am not willing to spend the money to put myself out there. Maybe this is selfish and maybe it only really punishes the child who presumably just wants to know who I am. But I chose to donate anonymously because I believe that family isn't defined by genetics.  If one of my offspring has the energy and patience to find me, I will meet him or her.  But until them, I hope they cherish their families, because those are the people that are really important.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

February Music...Gimme More, Gimme More!

Another strong month of new music and the introduction of some new techno-folky bands that I like a lot. Another first for me in February was seeing George Clinton and the P-Funk. I had no idea how much of this music and lyrics have populated mass culture. It was a great show and one that I am glad I was able to see, as I am not sure how many more concerts George has in him!

Happy and Down the Road by C2C - Little French tecnho band that I instantly fell in love with and bought everything.  These two are my favorites by far for their toe-tapping goodness.

If So by Atlas Genius - I continue to love everything by these Aussie guys and am glad they finally released their EP. 

One Way Trigger by The Strokes - It's techno. It's poppy. It's addictive.

Kangaroo Court by Capital Cities -  I wasn't kidding about the techno influence in this month's songs. These guys are coming to town soon and I hope they are as good in person as their recorded stuff has been.

Spotlight by Leagues - This is one of those songs that I instantly loved and somehow reminds me of summer.

Hero by Family of the Year- departing from techno to simple and sweet, Hero is a great song and worthy of being on a coming of age soundtrack a la Garden State.

Demon to Lean on by Wavves - a bit too much like Weezer but something about the edge in his voice makes me like this.

Heavy Feet by Local Natives - A haunting song, an oddly sweet video. 

Do the Right Thing by Dog is Dead - I am a big fan of Dog is Dead but they really haven't had any commerical success in the US.  I can't even buy them on itunes yet. Also listen to Teenage Daughter.

Thursday, January 31, 2013

January Music - New With Links for YOUR listening Pleasure!

Another strong month for new music that I like, and an inordinate number of females and Australian bands!  I fall deeper in love with Laura Mvula every time I hear her voice.  I really hope she is able to cross over into America because her stuff is gorgeous with a modern Nina Simone type feel.  Also, new for 2013 for your convenience, I am including links to the songs, so you can take a listen to the entire list in one sitting.  Enjoy!

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Sentimental for Sure

One great perk about moving twice in seven months is the opportunity to purge a great many things.  From clothes to knick knacks to many, many shoes, I have weaned myself off my previous level of "stuff."  Most of these things I gave to other people, many to Goodwill.  But as I did my weekly deep clean this past weekend, I noticed that many of the things I have kept, I was lucky enough to receive as gifts from other people.

I am so very lucky to be able to say I have an incredible support system and more than any other time in my life, have relied on them over the last year. So it really made me smile and take a pointed look at my house, my belongings and realize the things and the people that made the cut. Some like the Winnie the Pooh quote board from my college roommate and bestie Margaret, were obvious.  But others were not.  So here is a listing of some of the things that I have held onto over the years and a thank you shout out to the givers.

On my dresser is my care bear bank that my mom made for me when I was 8, in the height of my care bear obsession.  She painted it in a pottery class that I can vaguely remember picking her up at. It is next to my Winnie the Pooh bear that my friend Mandy gave me at some point in our very long friendship.

On my nightstand, for as long as I can remember I have had a small glass bowl with a decorative top and base that a former co-worker, Shea Griffin, gave me in 1996.  It held pot pourri (I think), but it has been the holder of my rosary beads for years now. I was sad to see that part of it broke in the move in March (so much for throwing stuff in boxes in a frantic hurry) but it is still intact and will remain on my night stand until it dissolves.  Shea recently got married and moved to California and thanks to facebook we still stay in cordial contact, but I think of him often, and how completely random it is that of all the things I have received over all the years, that I continue to keep this.

In my bathroom I have a plaque that my friend Melany gave me for my birthday years ago. It was a great day, an epic celebration, one of those days that felt perfect in every way. My core group of friends met for lunch, stayed through dinner, had husbands join us (and drive us home) and it was day that would be in a movie. The plaque reads something like "I remember all the women in my life, and am thankful for all the many ways they have inspired me, challenged me and made me laugh louder."  I am thankful that she thought of me when she saw that plaque, and that even though the friends and husbands are no longer the same, that we had that perfect day.

Along those lines is the plaque that Margaret gave me this year for Christmas that made me feel so loved, and way stronger than I think I am.  It says "I am pretty sure that given a cape and a tiara I could save the world."  When she gave it to me she said that it is how she has always viewed me...that I can handle anything.  I look at it every morning, remember she believes in me and smile.

Next to this is the boomerang that Shelia brought me from Australia and a print that says "she who loves the ocean" I bought in a little tacky tourist shop on our drive from Miami to Key West (in a convertible of course).  It's a trip I will forever be glad that I went on and solidified Shelia as a perfect travel buddy.  The boomerang reminds me to follow my dreams, and to seek out the ocean, because I am truly happy on and in the water.

A friend once told me I don't have a home; I have a gallery, and that made me insanely happy and proud.  I do have a ton of photos hanging on the wall, but each one means something to me and signifies a happy memory. Some are of my recent liberating trip to Ireland with my dear friend Beth and some are older, like the ones from my perfect trip to Jackson, Wyoming.    I have taken most of these photos, but have some other's work sampled in, many from my friend Mandy.  She is a fantastic photographer, and was taking pictures long before I became confident with my own photographic eye. Thanks to her I have some gorgeous photos of a trip I took to visit her in DC.  We got up and out before the sun and were rewarded with some of my favorite pictures of all time. She recently came to my house and didn't even recognize some of her own work, which made me laugh.  For me, I remember every photo being taken as vividly as the picture itself.

Thanks to my friend Dearsley I have a gorgeous poster from the Sante Fe Music Festival which is hanging across from the blue star mirror that my friends Anthony and Barb gave me so many years ago.  My kitchen is full of towels and trivets from Mandy, a clock from Beth, a piece of pottery from Margaret, a vase that Melany brought me back from Italy, a bowl from Peggy. I have two plaques my mom gave me that say "of course I have baggage but at least it's cute and it matches" and "I'm not bossy; I just happen to know what is best for everyone." I have the crystal frame that my friend Stephanie gave me for being part of her wedding.  It holds a picture of my grandmother on her wedding day in 1929 and is next to the picture my dad gave me of my mom and I finishing our first triathlon, holding hands as we crossed the finish line.

I could never list everything in my home that was given to me; there are just too many, but that fact makes me very happy. It means a lot to be in my first home alone, surrounded by physical manifestations of all the love and friendships that are in my life.