Friday, July 29, 2011

Pretty, Girly Tops

I love lace, flowers, purple... anything pretty and girly.  On my day off today, I finally spent a Banana Republic gift card from Christmas--and I was in luck since the store was also offering a 40% off sale. 

In addition to a lovely pair of drop earrings that are not pictured on the BN site (a mix of gold, turquoise beads, and tiny pearls)... here's what I bought--which thanks to the gift card and sales only cost me $57.  [If I ever snap a good picture of these earrings, I'll add them to the post... so cute!]

Lace Overlay Shell
via Banana Republic
Sally Floral Blouse
via Banana Republic
Scarlet Lace Cami
via Banana Republic

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

40th Wedding Anniversary, 1970s Style

Wow, the past month has flown by!  Back at the end of June, Scott and his sister threw their parents a surprise party to celebrate their 40th wedding anniversary.  Since they were married in 1971, the theme was reminiscent of the times.  A disco ball,  fog machine, retro clothes and big wigs...  His parents were completely surprised and all 65 to 70 party people had a groovy time!

(I totally wore this dress again today!)

The credit really goes to Scott, his sister and their helpers who set up the food, drinks and decorations while we were out to dinner with the guests of honor (pictured above).  My contribution to the party... a fun banner!  Much like the "tickled pink" baby girl banner, I used cardstock, scrapbook paper, and ribbon to make this colorful sign.

For some wise words on marriage from the happy couple, check out my post "29, 39, 54 Years of Marriage"...  Congratulations, Arnie and Pat, on 40 years!

Sunday, July 24, 2011

What I Learned About Bone Marrow Donation

Listen up, guys--I've got something important to talk about.  One of my sister's closest friends from high school is battling leukemia.  She is currently preparing for a bone marrow transplant after (good news!) finding a perfect donor match.  Until recently, I never realized how rare it is for someone to find a match, even though the Bone Marrow Registry is 12 million strong.
National Marrow Donor Program
My family is involved in hosting a bone marrow drive to get more people to join the registry.  The process of registering and actually donating if you are ever selected seems to be full of myths.  I always envisioned the whole "huge needle in the hip" thing, and since I suffer from needle-phobia, this possibility sounds terrifying.  But that's not the most accurate picture.

In talking with my mom, I learned that all it takes to register is a cheek swab, and if you are a match at some point, there are two different ways to extract blood stem cells.  One involves removing the cells from the back of your hip, but the other is from your arm, much like donating blood except that it requires a few shots in the days prior.

Just a couple days ago, I ran across an article in the August issue of Marie Claire on bone marrow donation.  "Made to Match" tells the story of Caitlin Emma, a college student who donated bone marrow to a child with leukemia.  It walks through the whole process, acknowledging the many myths and giving the straight facts on what Caitlin went through to donate--and save a life.

via Marie Claire
With all the misconceptions, I thought it was important to pass on what I have learned.  And really, I don't think I can say it much better than my sister's friend herself.  Here is a portion of a journal entry on her Caring Bridge site that gives a lot of information and ways to help:

Be the Match doesn't charge people to join the registry, but they still greatly need donations. While it's free for those who sign up, it still costs Be the Match $100 per person to do the necessary tests on the cheek swab samples. Donations of any size are welcome and much appreciated. Even just $5 or $10 can help add an extra person to the registry, and, as we've seen, when you're looking for a match, all you need is that ONE person.

I was very, very lucky to find my perfect 10 out of 10 donor, and many people don't get that lucky. Most of my ancestry is Western/Northern European, which is very well represented on the registry. (It has twice as many Europeans as Americans.) But, even with that well-represented ancestry, out of the 12 million people registered, I had 2 perfect matches. Two people out of 12 million, and that's with my good odds. Non-Europeans and people with mixed ancestry have a hell of a time finding matches. Two days before finding out I had relapsed, my friend Joerger and I volunteered at a bone marrow registry drive for a 7-year-old boy, Jonah Gomez, who has been unable to find a match. He's Hispanic, making the search more difficult, and his family lost their health insurance, putting added stress on the whole situation. You can read about his story here:

When it takes longer to find a match, people's diseases have time to worsen, their finances become more and more strained, and their treatments get increasingly desperate, trying to buy themselves just a bit more time. By joining the registry, you could end up being the one person to put an end to all of that and allow them to get their lives back.

To sign up, it's just a cheek swab and some paperwork [go to to order a cheek swab kit]. Most people never get called to donate, but, if you do, there are two different methods of stem cell collection. They either take stem cells from the back of your hip (for this procedure, they put you under general anesthetic) or from your arm (very similar to donating blood, but you have to get a few shots in the days before). If you have any other questions, has all kinds of information about signing up, as well as the donation process.

Update: Visit M's blog for more information on the upcoming drives in Johnson County, KS and her fundraising team.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

When I Grow Up, I Want to be a Writer

These days, we hear about parents pushing kids into sports, classes, jobs... and while they mean well, it's not always the best method to help their children succeed.  I am thankful that my parents always encouraged me to do what I dreamed of doing while still keeping a realistic view of things. (Yes, I could be an English major, but it would help to have a Marketing degree too... a combination that I enjoyed and has served me well).  Even when I was insecure about my writing, unsure about going back to school to develop my skills, and scared to jump into the world of freelance writing, they supported me.

On facebook this week, I came across a thoughtful post by Molly Backes entitled "How to Be a Writer."  Molly is the Assistant Director at StoryStudio Chicago where I have taken classes in the past (remember when I wrote about the studio's writing classes?).  I love her advice for parents on how to help their children who want to write become writers.

When your child wants to be a writer, what do you do?  How do you nurture her dreams and encourage her to grow?

via M. Molly Backes... over 15 years of journals
What should you do to help your child pursue her dreams of becoming a writer?

First of all, let her be bored. Let her have long afternoons with absolutely nothing to do. Limit her TV-watching time and her internet-playing time and take away her cell phone. Give her a whole summer of lazy mornings and dreamy afternoons. Make sure she has a library card and a comfy corner where she can curl up with a book. Give her a notebook and five bucks so she can pick out a great pen. Insist she spend time with the family. It’s even better if this time is spent in another state, a cabin in the woods, a cottage on the lake, far from her friends and people her own age. Give her some tedious chores to do. Make her mow the lawn, do the dishes by hand, paint the garage. Make her go on long walks with you and tell her you just want to listen to the sounds of the neighborhood.

Let her be lonely. Let her believe that no one in the world truly understands her. Give her the freedom to fall in love with the wrong person, to lose her heart, to have it smashed and abused and broken. Occasionally be too busy to listen, be distracted by other things, have your nose in a great book, be gone with your own friends.

Let her have secrets. Let her have her own folder on the family computer. Avoid the temptation to read through her notebooks. Writing should be her safe haven, her place to experiment, her place to work through her confusion and feelings and thoughts. If she does share her writing with you, be supportive of her hard work and the journey she’s on. Ask her questions about her craft and her process. Ask her what was hardest about this piece and what she’s most proud of. Don’t mention publication unless she mentions it first. Remember that writing itself is the reward.

Let her get a job. Let her work long hours for crappy pay with a mean employer and rude customers. If she wants to be a writer, she’ll have to be comfortable with hard work and low pay. Let her spend her own money on books and lattes – they’ll be even sweeter when she’s worked hard for them.

Let her fail. Let her write pages and pages of painful poetry and terrible prose. Let her write painfully bad fan fiction. Don’t freak out when she shows you stories about Bella Swan making out with Draco Malfoy. Never take her writing personally or assume it has anything to do with you, even if she only writes stories about dead mothers and orphans...

Read the rest on Molly's blog...  And The Atlantic picked it up too.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Book Club: Bossypants

On Sunday, some of us girls got together at N's place to discuss Up From the Blue.  We all filled plates of fruit, cheese and crackers, brownies and mini cupcakes, veggies and other delicious apps, and N served up a sweet-tasting, smoothie-like pink punch.

During our conversation, we commented on the quirkiness of the characters, the distinct time period of the 1970s, and the idea that you never know what goes on inside other people's households.  The story line was intriguing and somewhat mysterious, and because the protagonist was a young girl, we found ourselves wondering what her life was like from an outsider's perspective.  How would she or her family appear from a more objective point of view?

We enjoyed the book, but the mood was a little darker than we were looking for, considering it's summertime.  So for next month, we are going with a light, fun read-- Bossypants by Tina Fey.  This title highlights the high and low points in Fey's life, giving readers plenty of reasons to laugh along the way.  We'll be meeting in August to discuss... and weather permitting, we might even sit around a pool while we chat!

via Time Review: Amazon Best Books of the Month, April 2011
Tina Fey’s new book Bossypants is short, messy, and impossibly funny (an apt description of the comedian herself). From her humble roots growing up in Pennsylvania to her days doing amateur improv in Chicago to her early sketches on Saturday Night Live, Fey gives us a fascinating glimpse behind the curtain of modern comedy with equal doses of wit, candor, and self-deprecation.

Some of the funniest chapters feature the differences between male and female comedy writers ("men urinate in cups"), her cruise ship honeymoon ("it’s very Poseidon Adventure"), and advice about breastfeeding ("I had an obligation to my child to pretend to try"). But the chaos of Fey’s life is best detailed when she’s dividing her efforts equally between rehearsing her Sarah Palin impression, trying to get Oprah to appear on 30 Rock, and planning her daughter’s Peter Pan-themed birthday. Bossypants gets to the heart of why Tina Fey remains universally adored: she embodies the hectic, too-many-things-to-juggle lifestyle we all have, but instead of complaining about it, she can just laugh it off.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

We All Need Some Time Off

I'm back from vacation and slowly settling back into the routine.  The true reality check will be returning to work tomorrow.  But for now, I am savoring each moment of the past week... days of drinking in the beauty of the ocean waves, the warmth of sand and sunshine, the soothing sound of rain outside the screened-in porch, and the excitement of spending time with family members who I also consider to be friends.

ND Magazine

When we returned to Chicago and our stuffed mailbox, I plopped down on the couch and paged through the latest Us Weekly as well as the summer issue of Notre Dame Magazine.  Yes, these two publications are in stark contrast to one another (though perhaps the "class notes" section of ND Magazine with updates on old classmates feeds the same need as celebrity gossip...), but in my post-vacation glow, I found one article in ND Magazine particularly interesting--Kerry Temple's "A Summer Night."

The theme of the Summer issue revolves around childhood and summer, and this piece definitely deals with those topics.  Oh, the glorious summer breaks from school of our childhood years... those weeks that are now filling up, even for kids of today's world, with commitments large and small.

But with my return to work looming, I found a few parts of Temple's feature to really ring true--especially the quotes from the Harvard Business Review, toward the end of the piece, which mention the "prolonged hyperactivity" and "debilitating frenzy" of the modern-day workplace (who can't relate to facing "elevated time pressures"?).  This trend demonstrates how necessary and beneficial "time off" from work truly is.  It seems counter intuitive but with regular breaks, relaxation, and a chance to recharge, we can all be more productive, not to mention more creative and... happier.

I feel the pressure that comes from being constantly "on" and busy and accessible... the world saying "go, go, go" all the time.   And I know I'm not alone.  In a couple of recent posts, Jess from Makeunder My Life hit a chord when she wrote about constantly checking her email and how badly she needed an "email intervention" -- that is, making a change and committing to NOT check every 5 seconds, NOT check on nights and weekends.  (Find out more and take the Email Intervention Pledge at MML.)

Without a breather every once in awhile, we just end up moving at a frantic pace, until we realize that we're holding our breath, suffocating, not being truly present, not being as smart and successful--and fulfilled--as we could be.

I want to hold onto the serenity provided by my vacation, but part of me knows it's impossible.  The emails, calls, meetings, stress will eventually draw me back into the tornado that is work.  At the heart of it, I like what I do, but the pace and the urgency can be challenging.  I can try to change my mindset and my attitude, to take a deep breath, complete one thing at a time, do my best.

But I know myself, and I know the peace won't last forever.  So here's to the past week, my own version of "summer vacation," which will hopefully sustain me during any crazy-busy days ahead.  And here's to hoping that I can continue to claim moments of relaxation throughout the rest of the summer and all the seasons to come.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Beach Vacation Relaxation

With the July 4th holiday weekend upon us, many Americans are looking forward to an extra day or two off work.  And I am super excited to be on vacation all next week.  My family has been planning our trip to Rehoboth Beach for about a year now (it's been five years since our last real family vacay), and the big event is finally here. 
Our last family vacation to the Outer Banks, NC in 2006
The weather forecast is not ideal (possible rain every day), but the most important part will be simply being together.  I treasure the time with my family--my parents and my four younger sisters--since we live all over the Midwest (A - do Texans consider themselves Midwestern? ha).  Plus we will be vacationing with my aunt, uncle and cousins, which will be a blast.  And it's always nice to have some quality time with Scott without the daily stresses and commitments of life.

This break could not come at a better time.  It seems like everyone is in need of time off, so we have literally been counting down the days.  We have been emailing each other over the past few days, figuring out what to pack, what not to pack, and what we're going to eat.  Beach time, sleep, grilling, cocktails, games, books, maybe a little exercise, laughing and sharing stories, catching up with some of my favorite people in the world... it's a recipe for relaxation.

Enjoy the holiday weekend!  The blog will be quiet over the next week, but I'll be back soon, feeling renewed and refreshed...

My two youngest sisters... OBX in Summer 2006


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