Book Challenge!

Last month I started a book challenge that I wasn’t sure was possible. It was supposed to last a year, but I decided a one month stint was more my style. Always set yourself up for success!

The challenge? Only read books written by women, people of color, non-Americans, or who are Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual or Transgender. Basically, don’t read any books by straight, white, American men. Why? To introduce myself to different styles of writing. Books that are written by the same type of people start to sound the same. No matter how much plotting and planning goes into a book, authors still brings a large portion of themselves into the story.

By exposing myself to different types of authors I get to hear different voices. My first book was written by a woman. My second book was translated from another language. The writing is completely different from the typical best seller. I’m loving the challenge. It means that I have to do a bit more research before picking up the next good read, but that is also part of the fun.

Soon, I’ll post my first book review!

My 5 Favorite Movies

5) Harry Potter (any of them) – I know it’s kind of cheating to pick 8 movies instead of 1, but there is no way that I could possibly pick just one. Besides, they are all part of the same story. It would be impossible to separate one from another.

4) The Usual Suspects – Kevin Spacey is phenomenal in this one. He’s a brilliant actor, and I can’t imagine any other actor playing The Gimp. The writing is ingenious – the way the story twists around itself. This movie has one of the most surprising “aha” moments of any I’ve ever seen.

3) Love Actually – I love a sappy, feel-good movie as much as the next chick, and this one really takes the cake. You get to take a front-row seat while an entire cast full of characters go about their holiday. Hugh Grant brings a human touch to his role as Prime Minister. An added bonus is figuring our how all of the seemingly unrelated people are connected.

2) The Sound of Music – This has been one of my all-time favorite movies for so long. I can’t remember a time in my life that I wasn’t singing along with Maria or the children. When I was younger it was difficult for me to understand the true story, but I always knew that I wanted to be just like Maria when I grew up (except for that whole nun part).

1) Hudson Hawk – This one is a bit unfair since I love absolutely everything Bruce Willis, but Hudson Hawk is so quirky how do you not fall in love? It allows you to see more of Bruce WIllis’ true personality and humor. During an awards ceremony he admitted that it was his absolute favorite movie. The whole story line makes so much more sense once you realize that all the main character wants is a cappuccino.


Amid the hustle and bustle of every day life it is easy for me to overlook the ordinary things in life. Right now I’m sitting on the dark grey leather couch that I painstakingly chose for it’s comfort, color, and wide upholstered arms. My feet are propped up the long red ottoman that I occasionally turn longways into a make-shift chaise lounge. To fight off the sudden chill in the air, I’m wrapped up tightly in a grey and white wool blanket that depicts a wolf standing at the top of an outcropping of rocks, howling into the night.

I don’t usually think much about these things. They are a part of my usual routine of getting comfortable for a bit of TV, reading, or knitting. Today, the stillness of the winter day causes me to pause and reflect on my surroundings. It’s a feeling that inevitably overcomes me this time of year.

The grey and white throw, affectionately known as my “wolf blanket”, has been with me for over twenty years. It belonged to my twin brother, David, for a very short period of time. My brother was an enormous fan of all things wolf. At sixteen years of age he wrote letters to organizations that were threatening the habitat of grey wolves. Protecting these beautiful creatures had become a mission for him, and he would send any extra money to help conservation efforts. So many of his t-shirts were of howling wolves, lone wolves, and gorgeous wolf faces staring back intelligently. When the doctors discovered David’s brain tumor he went immediately into the hospital where he wore drab hospital gowns and drank out of plastic cups. Instead of his beloved outdoors and wildlife, he was surrounded by cold walls and attached to beeping equipment. After a few weeks a man who worked with my father, a man neither my brother nor I had ever met, purchased a stunning grey and white blanket to keep David from getting cold in the drafty hospital room. He loved his blanket so much and was always tucked in underneath it.

Only a few short months later David passed away. Twenty years later I still have many things that belonged to him including notes to friends, his journals, and the high school class ring he only wore once. The most beloved thing I have of his is this well-loved wolf blanket. It keeps me cozy when I’m sick or down. It helps me look forward to the winter time when I can curl up underneath it. During the coldest months it stays piled on top of my bed so I can burrow inside. Underneath it, I am warm and safe and loved. It is an absolutely extraordinary blanket.

Self Discovery

Originally I started this blog so that I could write about my attempts to get back into running, and exercise in general. I wanted to be able to inspire someone in the way that I have been inspired by other posts and blogs. After writing just a handful of posts I’ve come to realize that although I love exercise and running just about as much as I love anything, it is not the full scope of my passion.

When I was younger I had dreams of becoming either an art teacher or a music teacher. I have always been very passionate about the arts and sharing them with others. Teaching would allow me to inspire so many young minds, allow them to have the same creative outlet I had growing up. Art is a form of self-expression unlike any other. When I shared my dream with my grandma she hatefully told me that I needed to pick a real career, something that I could depend on. She said that when schools begin to cut budgets the first thing to go are the arts. I was absolutely devastated. Not only did I not have her support, my dreams were already a bust.

So, I drifted for a while. After graduating from high school I took a year, or six, off before having the resources to make  higher education a reality. It was hard work, and I still wasn’t sure what I wanted to do, but I could at least get started on the basics. During the six years it took me to get my bachelors, I only changed my major once. Inspiration comes in many forms. Mine came from a single man, the sole “IT guy” in a small firm, who unknowingly reminded me of my passion for technology. So, I switched majors and started taking IT classes. It was a match made in heaven. Not only did it allow me to use logic to understand programming languages, it brought out a type of creativity I never knew existed. For any program there are a number of correct answers. I was instantly hooked.

Years later I am working at a dream job, doing what I love. Occasionally, I even get to teach classes to other IT professionals. It is a great feeling to be able to help others by sharing my knowledge and experiences.

I believe that is what I want from this blog. Don’t get me wrong. I’m not going to start writing about programming languages and networking capabilities. Instead, this blog will be about my journey of self-discovery. Through my journey I hope to inspire others to try new things, take risks, and be true to themselves no matter the cost. Art comes in many different forms; a painting, a piece of music, a new building design. It can also be much simpler. The way you choose to live your life can be a piece of art. I choose to live freely, recognize beauty, take chances, and live outside of my comfort zone. I am destined to become an old woman with no regrets. I hope to inspire others along the way on my journey of self discovery.

Shed Building 101

My fiance and I have been putting together a shed kit for the last several months. She has wanted a shed for a long time, but there was no way to get one of the pre-fabs through the gate in our fence. Earlier this year she saw an advertisement for a do-it-yourself shed kit. It contains everything needed to build your own shed. All of the boards and plywood are cut to size. It even has all of the different sizes of nails and screws. The only thing required to complete the build are the tools, paint, and shingles. We figured it was a no-brainer.

The delivery truck dropped off a Kia-sized pile of shrink-wrapped material in the drive-way and waved goodbye. It took my fiance and me two days to haul the material from the driveway to the far corner of the backyard where we would begin the construction. A few days later she headed off for a weekend trip with her family. I took the opportunity to dig out the foundation, lay the gravel, and level the blocks that would form the base. It took nearly a day to get everything leveled and put the twelve foot long 4×4’s in place. I was, and am, crazy proud of my hard work. The following weekend my fiance put together the floor while I was away on a four-day music festival/camping trip. Since then we have worked together to build out the walls, lift them into place, put up the rafters, and nail the roof decking into place.

It has taken far longer than either of us expected to get this far, but it has been one of the most rewarding things I’ve ever done. I’m almost certain that my fiancee would say the same. Every time we go out onto the patio we look over at the shed and just grin. “We did that!” Hopefully, I’ll be able to post a picture of the shed, complete with shingles and trim, before winter comes.

I’m Busy

Yesterday I read a thought-provoking post about our culture and being busy. It has become an almost-constant state of being for many Americans. To some, it is a huge source of pride. “How are you?” “I’m busy.” We sit back, ready for everyone to be impressed with how important we are because we’re so busy.

The truth of the matter is that being interminably busy can cause a number of health problems. The most obvious is stress which leads to a number of other health problems. The human body is designed to effectively handle stress as long as it is followed by periods of relaxation or down-time. On the other hand, constant stress can lead to high blood pressure, headaches, stomach pain, and trouble staying or falling asleep. Any of these can lead to even more health problems sending people into a downward spiral. Don’t even get me started on how hard it is for this Type A personality to juggle everything without beating myself up for letting a single thing slide.

Periods of “busy” can strike anyone at any time. No matter how hard I fight it, my To Do list has a habit of growing in direct opposition to my free time. It is important for me to remember that being busy is not a way of life. Our bodies function so much better when they are not in a constant state of “on”. No matter the form it takes, relaxation and down-time are crucial to being able to effectively manage life and all that it throws at you.

Some of my favorite types of down-time? Yoga, exercise, reading, movie nights, writing, knitting, and playing with the puppies! In fact, it’s time to play with the puppies now.


Race Training

Tomorrow is the first day of my 8k training team. It seems a bit silly to me that I even felt the need to train for such a short race, but this last week is proof that I need it. I have plantar fasciitis in my right foot, and it is really killing my running game. Every morning I wake up, barely able to walk, limping to take a shower. I get up my from my desk at work and hobble to my meetings. It is so painful that I’ve started walking a bit awkwardly to avoid putting any pressure on it. Of course, that has caused the tendon on the outside of the foot to start screaming at me, too. I can’t win.

The last time I ran was about a month ago. I took a very leisurely five mile jaunt around my area. It felt fantastic. I was running easy, my pace was great, and my breathing was never better. Then I couldn’t walk for the next two days. After way too long of dealing with the aggravation, self-diagnosing, and doing everything the internet said to do for plantar fasciitis, I gave up. The sports medicine doc gave me the same diagnosis with the same treatment, and included icing it three times a day. Getting over this annoying foot problem is definitely going to be a full-time job. PT starts next week. Shoot me now. Please.

The first training run tomorrow? I get to be there at 7:00am. Time for bed.

Why I write

For me, writing has always been about getting thoughts and ideas out of my head. During tough times writing helps me process my thoughts and better understand what I am feeling. More than anything it is a way to make more room in my head for new ideas. My brain has always moved a hundred times faster than my mouth, so I have a habit of tripping over my words and skipping past entire thoughts. The process of putting my words onto paper lets me rearrange ideas in a way that makes way more sense to me and others. Writing is the best way I have to express myself to others.

With this blog I plan to share my adventures in running, knitting, work, exercise, and anything else I find myself doing. Everything can be an adventure. I hope to show my love for life with the rest of the world.

September is Pain Awareness Month

I was supposed to begin my eight week Stronger journey a few days ago, but my body had other ideas. I suffer from Fibromyalgia, a very misunderstood disease. I used to believe, as many still do, that Fibromyalgia is a catch all diagnosis for people who just can’t handle life. “Fibromyalgia” gives people an excuse to be lazy and complain about how bad their life is while popping narcotics for imagined pain.

I spent over a year having every test imaginable done to find the cause of my symptoms: fatigue, muscle twitches, joint and muscle pain, and feeling things that weren’t there. On any given day I would feel heat on my upper thigh, burning on my arms, electric shocks in my ankles, and water running down my leg. On a beautiful cloudless day I could even feel rain hitting my legs. I was sleeping ten or twelve hours each night, but couldn’t stand up straight during the day because of my fatigue. My head was always foggy and common words escaped me. I used to feel so stupid all the time, and depression really weighed me down.

When I received my diagnosis I was so angry. I wanted the doctor to take it all back and find the real reason I was having these problems. The diagnosis felt as though the doctor had given up and didn’t want to keep looking for the real cause. However, the reality is that in the absence of all other diagnosis, Fibromyalgia is the most likely cause. I knew I didn’t have Lyme Disease, Ehrlichiosis, Epstein Barr, Multiple Sclerosis, vitamin deficiency, hyper- or hypo-thyroidism, pinched nerves, a brain tumor…the list goes on. In fact, I was one of my doctor’s healthiest patients. There was no other explanation for my symptoms. Over the next few weeks I did an extensive amount of research on this fake, catch-all diagnosis and learned that while the symptoms are widely varied, there are some commonalities between all sufferers, namely fatigue, muscle and joint pain, fogginess, memory loss, inability to concentrate, and 18 very specific tender points on the body. Of those 16 tender points I already had six. The more I read, the more I realized that this diagnosis fit. I could finally put a name to the thing that had been plaguing me for over a year. A huge weight was immediately lifted from my shoulders.

Next, it was time to figure out how to live with this thing. I was told to take it easy, rest frequently, don’t push too hard, etc. – all things that have absolutely no meaning to an independent, southern woman. It took a long time to figure out that this really was my new life. I was no longer able to keep pushing past the brink of exhaustion since it would literally put me out of commission for the next couple of days. I couldn’t make plans weeks ahead of time since there was no way to know what kind of day I would be having. Some days it was impossible to even get out of bed.

That was three years ago. Some times I still struggle. This week is one of those times. It is hard enough right now to make it to work. Walking to meetings, or to and from my car, is just manageable right now. Throwing in a 35 minute High Intensity Interval Training right now wouldn’t be taking it easy, and it might be considered pushing too hard. Hopefully next week will be a different story, and I can post my first week of Stronger from a gorgeous beach in the Outer Banks of North Carolina. This vacation can’t get here soon enough.

Pain Awareness Month

It’s time to get Stronger

Tomorrow I will start my journey to get Stronger – Day 1. It is an eight week challenge and is the best way I can think of to get back into shape. A little less than a year ago I was training for my first half marathon. I was in the best shape of my life – running three to four time each week after a targeted weight routine. Then I developed stress fractures in both shins. No walking, no biking, and no running. It was terrible. By the time I was able to start running again, I could barely run a mile without gasping for breath. My legs cramped up and it felt as though I had weights strapped to my feet.

Since then I have been plagued by several annoying injuries caused by poor form, not warming up, not stretching correctly, and not multi-training. You name it, I’ve done it. Now it’s time to do this the right way. From the beginning. Slow and steady, with hard work and sweat.

The Stronger series was created by Live Strong and contains ten different workouts. The first five of the routines are done for four weeks before moving on to the final five, more advanced, workouts. The trainer, Nicky Holender, was a pro soccer player and definitely brings his A-game for this series. It’s time to get Stronger!

I can’t wait to start tomorrow!