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2013: The year in review

December 22, 2013

Some will take 5 minutes, some a few months. . . . just a list of random things I thought I’d try to do in 2013. (The update)

1)    Polar Bear Plunge
2) Read 50 Shades of Gray
3) Read Team of Rivals
4) Read In the Garden of Beasts
5) Read Fall of Giants
6) Read The Great Influenza
7) Read Book #6 (Title: TBD)
8) Read Book #7 (Title: TBD)
9) Read Book #8 (Title: TBD)
10) Read Book #9 (Title: TBD)
11) Read Book #10 (Title: TBD)
12) Read Book #11 (Title TBD)
13) Read Book #12 (Title TBD)

14) Participate in the SNAP challenge (one week, $25 all 7 days)
15) Run a 5K
16) Write a letter instead of shooting a long email
17) Walk the Freedom Trail
18) Go to a Red Sox/Yankees game
19) Participate in the USPS 3K challenge
20) Unplug from social media for a week.
21) Walk, run, jog 500 miles (I mean, I’ve got a YEAR)
22) Go to Walden Pond. (Such a bad local tourist)
23) Get over my fear of needles and go to the dentist
24) Take a yoga class
25) Volunteer 50 hours
26) Go to Northern California
27) Go to New Orleans
28) Go to Puerto Rico
29) Learn to cook tamales
30) Make an intentional collage
31) Go vegetarian for a week
32) Menu plan for a week . . . and follow it!
33) Bike 1000 miles (see the I’ve got a year note)
34) Walk away from an argument
35) Work a 44 hour week

36) Make sure all that dang adult paperwork is taken care of
37) Pay off the remaining credit card debt
38) Go to the MFA once a month
39) Go to NYC just to go to MOOD!
40) Walk the Freedom Trail
41) Prehab my shoulder in an attempt to avoid surgery
42) Organize guest room
43) Organize kitchen
44) Find new homes for orphaned socks.
45) Start to learn Spanish.
46) Finish my holiday shopping by October.
47) Hollins Hanukah II
48) Journal more

49) Sending my 2012 Christmas cards by oh, St. Patrick’s Day.
50) Go fall camping
51) Take a fun class at one of the zillion extension centers
52) Try to be more zen.  (failed but tried).

Shoulder surgery really wrecked some of my plans (and finances).  2013 will be remembered as a pretty neutral year.  Some great things, some good things, a few new bolts in my body, the adoption of Windsor (aka Sir Fluffy Butt), realizing there are some people I just don’t like and I don’t have to like them.  (Read: you don’t have to be friends with everybody you have known your entire life on Facebook).  I did get a laugh at looking back at this list.  I can honestly say that on 12/31/2012 if you had told me I’d have done a half marathon and NOT a 5K in 2013, I’d have laughed in your face!  Enjoy the holidays and remember to take time for you.

Picture of the Day 1/2/2013

January 2, 2013

Picture of the Day 1/2/2013

Sometimes even knowing the context of the sign doesn’t make any sense. . . .

The Early Winter Darkness

December 23, 2012

Like most of us, I’ve been stumbling around the past 9 or so days trying to figure out what went so horrifically wrong in Newtown on the 14th.  Of course there are not real answers, only ideas and some incredibly stupid suggestions (see the NRA). We talk about “a culture of violence” and other such random excuses (let’s face it, most of the world sees the same movies, plays the same video games and yet there isn’t a daily news story on a mass shooting).

Layered on top of the tragic chaos of Newtown, was the absolute insanity of the Mayan prophecy.  I received a text yesterday from my middle nephew “bummed the world didn’t end.” I laughed.  That guilty laugh that I remember from right after 9/11.   And a fleeting idea: maybe the Mayans were right.  My idealistic side hopes that maybe, just maybe we’ve reached the end of the finger pointing, blame games. The senseless acts of violence.  The culture of “it’s not my fault”. The community of self.

I thought about those in and around Newtown who are trying to find words when there are no words.  There are no answers.  I sat and thought for a moment, we created this.  We created this chaos. 

I’m not going to debate the merits of who should have a gun and who shouldn’t.  I don’t know why one person who was haunted by what must have been horrific demons killed 27 people before killing himself.  But as I sit in the darkness of the early winter, as we start to celebrate the coming of the light, I can’t help but think maybe it’s time to hope the Mayan’s were right.  That the world did end and we seized the moment to create a new one.

Maybe it’s because I’m getting older.  Or maybe because I’ve spoken to my 6-7 year old nephew and nieces, but I found myself thinking, the true tragedy of Newtown would be to let it become like Columbine, Northern Illinois University, Virginia Tech, Puducah, Aurora, Portland and simply a news cycle.  The lives have been lost.  The dreams have been shattered.

It’s time for us to build a new world: one where six year olds doesn’t calmly explain to his aunt the emergency plan for each location of his school for fire, tornado and lock down.  It’s our time to lead.  We finally have to say enough is enough.

I don’t have the answers.  I’m not even sure I know all the questions.  I know I’m exhausted of news that simply brings more heartache.


Upon your graduation … some advice to the Class of 2012

May 14, 2012

Since I’m never going to be rich or famous enough to offer tips for success to new graduates, here is my advice for the newly minted graduates of 2012.  Some are funny, some are serious and some flat out address my pet peeves from the class of 2011.

25. Live beneath your means, at least for the first 5 years out of school. 

24. Do your own taxes.

23. Take a class on retirement planning. This summer.

22. Get a copy of your immunization records, birth certificate and medical records.

21. Get a number of a locksmith.  Put it in your cell phone and glove compartment. Trust me.

20. Set your Facebook profile to not let people auto-tag you in pictures.

19. Tight clothes are never appropriate in the work place.

18. Trust me, your boss knows when you come in, when you leave and how many breaks you take.  So do your co-workers.

17. Find a hobby that is off the beaten track of what your friends do.

16. There isn’t a job beneath you; there isn’t a ‘dream job’.

15. Eating fish at your cube will result in comments being made.

14.  Share chocolate not drinking stories.

13. Learn to travel alone.

12. Take a job you think you might be interested in.

11. Stay in touch with former employers, professors and colleagues.

10. If you get fired (and you probably will), spend some time thinking about why you were fired.  Generally both parties could have done a better job in communicating.

9.   Always write a response to your review: just don’t sign and date. Put some thought into the critique of your performance.

8. Know a job you would excel at, know a job you would not like, know a job you would want if you could have any job in the world (even if it’s not in your field).  All are popular interview questions.

7. “I’m a people person”  or “I’m a hard worker” are probably the single most over-used phrases in the hiring process.

6. It’s ok to say you do not aspire to be a people manager.  Some people manage projects better than people.

5. Keep your work colleagues separate from your friends.

4. Stay current with your profession, even if it’s on your own time.

3. Take advantage of tuition reimbursement offered by employers.

2. Leave your laptop, cell phone and blackberry at home during your vacation.

1. Find your passion.  You will be spending a lot of time during your life at work: working in an area you feel passionate about makes all the difference in the world.

If only there were fairy tale endings

February 12, 2012

I love March Madness.  For most of the month, I’m transported into a land where David’s beat Goliath, where crazy shots win the games and, where, at the end, many players will have played a game competitively for the last time and the tears you see are real tears of realizing that this was the last time you would get to do something you would love.  This year, I have a hunch it will be the last time we see Pat Summit prowl the lines as the legendary coach of the Lady Volunteers.  If there is a fairy tale ending, for Pat, UT would cut down the nets in Denver.  The reality is that it won’t happen: and oh, I wish I was wrong.  I was in the stands in Kansas City (I can still see that in-freaking-sane 3 point shot by Kellie Jolly).  I was there in Knoxville, Boston, Philly, Palo Alto, New Orleans when they didn’t cut down the nets.  I court side in Tampa and grabbed my ACL repaired knee when Vikki Baugh hurt hers.

It doesn’t matter where you in the stadium, when the Lady Vols play, you can hear Pat’s voice.  I’ve heard that distinticve Middle Tennessee twang all over the country as I’ve caught games when I could.  This year I saw the Lady Vols play at Madison Square Garden.

Maggie Dixon Classic

All season, long time assistant Holly Warlick has been running the huddles.  In an exceptionally perceptive, well written article, Dan Flesser examines the role that Warlick has tried to balance this year.  At the University of Tennessee, there is a saying “Vol For Life”: it comes out of the saying on the locker rooms that states “Today, I will give my all for Tennessee.”  Warlick was the first athlete – male or female – to have her jersey retired.  She was one of the first basketball All-Americans at UT, while attending on a track scholarship because basketball did not have enough.  Working without a contract, she is trying to balance something most of us cannot fathom.  Summitt isn’t just her boss, but a life long mentor and friend.  Warlick’s words were telling: she doesn’t know if Pat will be back next year.

These are the ways I want to remember Pat (bad fashion and all):

Leading Rocky Top at UT Men's Game

8th National Title

That is 3 in row!

Not always a fashion plate: always coaching

 (Even the serious fashion faux pas outfits!)

Coaching in the huddle

There will be some hard decisions to be made in Knoxville at the end of the season.  Sadly, I think it is time for Pat to step aside at the end of the season.  She’s given her all for Tennessee. She is a VFL.  And my fairy tale ending is this ending in number nine.  I know that won’t happen (Stanford!).  My only hope is that this can happen with grace and dignity for all parties involved.  This doesn’t have a happy ending.  One of the greatest coaches, one of the greatest women pioneers in athletics doesn’t get to ride off into the sunset.  May her legacy be the generations of women who embody Title IX and having the courage to publicly battle Alzheimer’s.

A meal that tells your story

October 30, 2011

I watched Top ChefAll-Stars while the weird October Nor’easter blew through the Bay State last night.  One of the challenges that I loved from the All-Star season was the Ellis Island challenge.  Part of it is the romanticized myth of being a welcoming nation to immigrants personified (see Irish need not apply to realize that one is a creation of our communal, idealized national persona).  The challenge was to make a dish that represented your familial history in the United States.

Once, in grad school somebody was ultra snarkish to me and stated “that I was ‘new to the area and didn’t understand”’ whatever drama was being discussed.  I flung back I’m not a transplant, I’m a replant.  True, my dad’sfamily DID leave Massachusetts after the Revolutionary War for their reward of a chunk of Ohio but they are only half my family narrative.  I’ve always felt a somewhat complicated relationship with immigration/opportunity and the narrative that is woven by so many people.  Yes, my dad’s family has this wild and strange pedigree (a signer to the Declaration of Independence (see, it comes naturally!), the person who surrendered Ft. Sumter, a long line of Quaker farmers, a longer line of people who stand up for beliefs even if they are unpopular or can cost jobs.   In short, a family that probably was at the 1% at some time in the story of the nation (put it this way, my dad’s side of the family could always vote).  My grandmother received her MBA from The Ohio State University in an era when most men didn’t graduate from high school let alone college.  And yes, I qualify as a member of the Daughters of the American Revolution.  I have the paperwork, somewhere.  My paternal grandfather’s family (in addition to giving me my weird name), collects PhDs. There are a few university buildings name after them; long tenures at Nebraska, Wyoming and Oregon.

My mom’s family is the other side of the American coin.  Little is known about her family history.  She was the first person in her family to graduate from college.  She worked full time at a grocery store while taking a full load of classes and graduated in 4 years with a double major: including student teaching.   My maternal grandmother was raised in the coal towns of rural Kentucky.  Her mother was (probably) illiterate.  Her father wandered away one day and never returned (he had been gassed during WW I).  She had a hard life: moving where the jobs were at the time, eventually ending up in Indiana where she and my grandfather were high school sweethearts. His was an equally difficult childhood: neither of my grandparents knew the world “play”.  My grandfather carried ice on his back during the depression as a child to support his mother and brother.  I know little about his side of the family.  Both of my maternal grandparents knew going to bed hungry as a child.

My maternal grandmother’s family has a colorful past: they were run out of Virginia into Kentucky over an issue of horse thievery.  The hazy legend of an Uncle Scarface released
from the penitentiary with several notches in his belt: the type that suggested he killed that many people. There is Cherokee blood in my mother’s side of the family (you can see it in the pictures of her grandmother, my sister).  One of my mother’s uncles and his wife had the most education of their generation: 8th and 6th grades.  They moved with the TVA and helped to construct the Hoover Dam.  My mother tells of her relatives struggling with Civil Rights: including one line from a family member “I know I’m not better than a black man, I just wasn’t raised that way”: a startling, truthful admission of an insanely complex issue (the man in question? Martin Luther King, Jr.). I bristle when individuals broad brush southerners as uneducated, racist or backwards.  That is part of my family: and really, it’s the more interesting side of my family, I mean, what kid doesn’t want an Uncle Scarface?

The two people I’d love to have dinner with together were both named Mary.  One, my dad’s mom, you always had to tell her what you learned.  When she died a few years ago, I realized that how I traveled was so influenced by her: what is new, what is different, what did you learn.  There is more to the world than the national boundaries.  She always hosted students studying at Ohio State from all over the world.  There is complexity and beauty in the world.

The other Mary was my mother’s great aunt by marriage.  She called every male Bud and every female Sis.  She was a tiny feisty woman who travelled her husband building dams all over this country.  She lost siblings and friends in the dangerous coal mines of eastern Kentucky. She turned cards (as in a fortuneteller) but stopped shortly after I was born: my mom says she thinks she saw her husband’s death. She also never stopped learning.  She always sought a variety of opinions on an issue.  She didn’t know a stranger.  She was a character: she attended
a very strict non-denominational church.  She didn’t like the “new” preacher but liked his father.  One Easter, she announced she’d heard enough of the son’s “fool preaching” and walked out.  In the middle of the sermon: she stood up, said she heard enough and we were leaving.  The town she lived in was dry.  We used to bring her a bottle of Jack Daniels every summer.  One year, we had to run an errand, she told my mother to speed through town so nobody could smell her breath (through rolled up windows). Everybody in the town knew that if times were hard, you could get a mealwith her: there wasn’t a lot, but there was always enough.

So I started thinking, if I had to make a meal to represent both of these women, both powerful driving forces in how I think, what would it be? First, I’d have to cook: both were horrific cooks.  I know there would be copious amounts of coffee.  The protein would have to be chicken.  Part of me thinks, that for the hodge-podge American mutt genealogy that I own, I’d want nothing more than a roasted chicken, root veggies and pie and a bit of Jack in that coffee.  And a really interesting conversation between two Marys who grew up vastly different, both would bristle at being called a feminist but both were amazing pioneers and never stopped learning.

Perhaps it’s just me and my weird and wonderful family history: I’m uncomfortable with broadbrushing any group.  My family has taught me better and both sides come from very different parts of the American story.

Tip #339495 for life

October 5, 2010

Obtain the name of a locksmith in your area. Put the name in your cell phone and glove compartment. Trust me. . . .