terrible writing club: thoughts on empathy

I’ve been stuck in a rut, creatively speaking, for quite some time.  I’ve been toying with the idea of writing prompts but never got around to actually looking into it.  I figured it was fate when one of my very favorite podcasts, Terrible Thanks For Asking, announced they were doing a writing club.  All I had to do was text (easy) and they would send me automatic weekly writing prompts.  It was basically marrying two of my favorite things: writing and emotional stuff.

Yesterday, I got a text from the #TerribleWritingClub and I’ve been thinking about it since.  The text read like this:

Quote from Nora, episode #49: “Sometimes I think the hidden key to empathy is just humility and curiosity.  It’s just saying, ‘hmm, I don’t get that… tell me more?’”  Write about your empathy.  Where do you struggle to feel empathetic?  To yourself?  To someone who gets right under your skin?  What comes easy to you where empathy is concerned?

em·pa·thet·ic /ˌempəˈTHedik/ adjective
  1. showing an ability to understand and share the feelings of another.

My first thought went to my struggle with being empathetic toward others.  I feel like I’m a great listener and someone whose default setting is empathy, but I’m also a fixer.  I fail to ask the simple question: “do you want me to just sit with you in this or do you want me to help you find a solution?”  Instead of approaching it with curiosity (as Nora does), I also fail to go back and get more information for fear of making someone uncomfortable.  I feel like I have to stay two steps ahead in an emotional conversation so I’m not caught off-guard without a response.  It’s a fatal flaw that I’m working on.

I was listening to another podcast this week that kicked around this whole idea of being empathetic to oneself and people who might get under the skin.  The argument was (paraphrasing here) ‘do you throw the art out with the artist’ if the artist turns out to be a garbage human?  Does their garbage humanness taint the art?  It made me think maybe people are afraid to be uncomfortable; I know I am in certain aspects.  As a result, there’s a knee-jerk reaction in the time we’re living which is to avoid offending anyone or making anyone uncomfortable.  The truth is (I’ve discovered through lots of therapy) that growth comes from discomfort.  Good dialogue comes from discomfort.  Change comes from discomfort.  Growth, dialogue and change are all part of being empathetic.  The willingness to be uncomfortable is part of being empathetic.

Think about your answer to that question.  Do you struggle being empathetic to yourself?  Do you struggle in that connection with others?  Do you find curiosity an essential part of empathy?  I do think empathy is something we could all use a little more of.  I’ll be taking this thought with me, going forward.  I hope you’ll consider it too.


who are you?

“Who are you?”

What a simple question, right?  But when you take it apart and really consider it, it’s a pretty huge idea.

It seems like everything in my life right now is pointing me in the direction of digging in to that idea.  Quick aside in all seriousness: I love the phrase “digging in” so much that it might be on my headstone when I die.

I digress.

This idea grew from a conversation with my therapist, then took root when I stumbled on an Instagram post by Melissa Hartwig (the amazing, kick-ass woman behind the W30).  I found myself thinking: I want to know who I am and own who I am.  I haven’t been able to stop thinking about what it means for me to do that.  I have always owned the fact that I’m moment by moment, feelings fluid, ever-absorbing my environment, tough to pin down.  That’s not near enough of an answer for me, though.

As you know, it started with that same simple question, “who are you?” posed by my therapist.  Out of my mouth came the canned response, “I’m an auntie, a friend, a good listener, a fiercely loyal member of my family and I like to read.”  Those are all words I typically use to identify myself and she came right back by telling me that those words don’t say much about ME and who I actually am as a person.  That answer doesn’t reflect my values, my personality or what gets me out of bed in the morning.  Everyone is a daughter, auntie, uncle, mother, father, son, friend, sibling or a combination of those words.  Those are identifying words that we all fall back on and while there is likely a lot of pride attached to those words, it doesn’t really say who you are at your core.  I’m pretty sure at this point in my life I should know the answer to that question – but I don’t.  I have been so busy avoiding myself that I’ve been focused on helping those around me answer that question for themselves.

Melissa Hartwig wrapped it up in a nice little package called “self-love”, which is a concept that feels foreign to me.  She says everything in life can be taken away (preach, girl) except who we really are.  So why not OWN who we really are – not just those identifiers that are easy responses or the things about us that can be taken away in a moment?  We need to have our identity wrapped up in OURSELVES – not who we are to other people.  Do not allow outside factors to define who we are, she says, and I was completely feeling that.  I’ve often handed a partner the reins in determining who I am; my value; my identity.  I have been stuck waiting for life to happen TO me instead of me happening TO life.  I’m just now starting to grasp this concept.

After much thought and consideration, this is me, as I know me in this moment…

I am strong.  Every day I show up for my life and live it heart-forward.  Sometimes it really, really, really hurts but I’ve never been sorry for my scrapes and bruises because of the lessons I’ve learned in the process.

I am caring.  I have no off-switch in this regard.  I almost care too much.  I’m a very soft person – much too soft for this world – but I’m owning it.

I am dedicated, loyal and determined.  I was once told that I only work under pressure but I think a more correct statement reflecting who I am now is that I work hard despite pressure.  I have shown myself again and again that I can keep my eyes down and continue moving through something till there’s nowhere left to go.  Looking back on where I’ve been, I can see the little rest stops where I might have veered off and taken another path – or more likely should have – but I know that my loyalty is often in the driver’s seat, so we go on.

I am open-minded (and open-hearted).  It’s not too often that I take a hard line about anything.  I’m very malleable in that I listen to other perspectives and give them time to work in me.  Outside opinions often help me get to the heart of my feelings (like this blog post) so I always try to stay open for the wisdom to come.

I am always working to be a healthier version of myself.  This is both at face value and metaphorically.  I don’t strive for perfection I strive for healthy.  I don’t always get it right and sometimes I have to stop what I’m doing, turn around, and go back.  My ultimate goal is to be healthy from the inside out.

I am curious.  I have a SERIOUS thirst for knowledge of all the things.  I like to know the reason behind human motivations and it’s not unusual for my friends, family and really any acquaintance to be met with probing questions from me in an attempt to understand them better.  I speak in feelings and understand emotion.


It’s hard work, figuring out who I am and what I’m about.  This isn’t where the notion ends for me – I’ll keep digging and refining.  I would just encourage you, friends, to really think about who you are at your core… after you’ve gotten past all the easy responses, what are you left with?

i did it: cryotherapy

If you’re like me, you get emails from Groupon pretty much on the regular.  I think the best part of Groupon is that I’m able to try out new stuff without paying too much to do it (knife-less lipo, anyone?).  Every once and a while there will be something in the email that catches my eye.  A few months ago, it happened to be cryotherapy.  I’d seen it before on the internets and Instagram and it’s with a minimal amount of sarcasm that I say to you all, “if it’s good enough for a celeb, it’s good enough for me.”  So I bought a Groupon for a local cryo place for three visits for the price of one.

This is your standard 5 w’s and how.

Who?: Me!

What?: I did cryotherapy!  The when/where was really irrelevant but I went three days in a row.  They recommend keeping your appointments more *together* than not and if you’re going twice in the same day, you have to separate it out by several hours.  Since I was going after work, it was just better for my schedule to go three nights in a row after work.

Why?: I wasn’t exactly sure what to expect but I had done enough research on the benefits to know that cryotherapy is known to ease muscle aches (good for athletes), helps weight loss (speeds up the metabolism), and encourages blood flow (which makes skin look clearer) among other things.  I was definitely curious about the weight loss part and (spoiler alert) I can tell you that in three days of going, it wasn’t one of the benefits I experienced.  However, that could vary from person to person and I wasn’t expecting a miracle in three days.

How?: So the gist of it is is that you strip down to the under-essentials (putting it delicately) or you could wear a swimsuit if you like.  You put on these tall fluffy socks that are provided, some clog looking rubber shoes and some gloves.  The more sensitive extremities are covered.  You step into the tank (with the aid of the little operator – my gal was super nice and chatty.  2 minutes, 40 seconds goes by quickly when you’re talking about Game of Thrones…) and it raises so just your head pops out.  You’re encouraged not to breathe in the magic coldness which is why just your head is out of the tank.  The gal told me a lot of people walk in place and as soon as she turned on the cold, I understood why.

Guys, it.gets.cold.  Like -110 degrees cold.

The weird part is that you just feel it on the surface of your skin.  I wouldn’t say the experience was *pleasant* but I definitely went back the other two times and would gladly do it again – so it’s not that miserable.  Right after I got out of the tank, I actually started to sweat (which the cryo people said was good).  It was a super weird feeling to have my skin be cold to the touch but sweat at the same time.

Verdict: I would totes do it again.  I don’t know that I experienced the full *benefits* of it but I can say that I noticed I slept much better those three nights and my skin did look clearer after all three treatments.  The place I went to offers “packages” for cryo.  While that’s not something I feel like I need in my life right now, it would be interesting to see if that provides more of the benefits touted.  All in all, I’m super glad I tried it.


cleveland, my hometown


I’ve found myself inspired to write about my “hometown”: Cleveland.

The truth is that I’m from a town closer to Akron but after going away to college in another well-known Ohio town, “Cleveland” became the learned response to the question “where are you from?”  (Until LeBron, no one really knew of Akron so the chances of anyone knowing a suburb of a suburb of a suburb of Akron was highly unlikely.)  So I’ve been saying “Cleveland” to answer “where are you from?” for ages even though my real hometown is about 45 minutes away.

I’m in Ohio this week visiting my family for my usual summer trip and it seems like every time I’m here, I appreciate it just a bit more.  When I lived here prior to making Iowa my home, I kept my radius a bit tight.  I didn’t venture far from the fanciness of Beachwood where all the shopping is, University Heights where the Whole Foods is, and the east side where my sister lived.  As it turns out, Cleveland is really cool when you know where to go and I wasn’t going to the right places.  It took moving away and stalking the city from afar to really figure out what made Cleveland tick.

I’m continually amazed at how much this city has changed.  Even in the three short years since I’ve been gone.  There’s such a sense of community and the local movement has really taken root here.  It’s exhibited by the restaurants all along W 25th St that pride themselves on dishes made from locally sourced ingredients.  And with the West Side Market around the corner, how could they not feel inspired?  The food scene here could rival almost any big city.

(A few highlights: The Greenhouse Tavern, Townhall, Bier Market, Bar Cento, L’Albatros, The Black Pig and I’m dying to try The Butcher and the Brewer.)

Beyond the food, though, this city is a crafter’s dream.  It’s like an Etsy beyond the internets with vendors lining some of the coolest streets for things like Hingetown, and Cleveland Flea.  This city has really become an artist’s community and really celebrates their creatives.

The city stretches far and wide – you have your outskirts communities like Rocky River and Avon and Westlake – and there are so many more people, places and things beyond just my scope.  I’ve written about CLE in the past; sometimes in good and not-so-good context and I’m happy to embrace this place I call home.

There are still things that make CLE less-than-ideal (the crime rate, lack of an organized public transit system, spaced out neighborhoods, lack of walkability between aforementioned spaced-out-neighborhoods) but I do believe I could kill it (socially speaking) in this city after having been forced to spread my wings and learn a different city.  I’d be more active in the community, more likely to get involved and celebrate all that’s going on here (versus lamenting what’s not).  I’m someone who is somewhat of a city snob but I’m real and I’m from CLE.  Having very little “hometown” loyalty, I am happy to say that this city is something to celebrate and there’s a lot of good coming from CLE right now.


2014: my year in music

Happy New Year, lovelies!  I’m in the process of cooking up my resolutions but in the meantime, I’ve been thinking about this post for quite some time.  2014 was a big year for me—in music.  I really got my money’s worth on my Spotify this year.  The following are some albums I loved that were released in 2014 and a couple that escaped my eye in 2013 that I played incessantly (abused) in 2014.  Enjoy!

If you looked at my Spotify most listens for 2014, you’d probably see this album on top.  The War on Drugs – Lost in the Dream.  I’m pleased to see it topped some other online charts cause it’s getting the recognition it deserves.  It sounds almost etherial but definitely based in rock n’ roll.  The vocals sound super Dylan-esque (with a pinch of Dire Straits) and the music is borderline jam band but please don’t let that taint your initial impressions cause there’s a lot of synth in there.  The epic An Ocean In Between the Waves is a song that, at just over seven minutes, isn’t long enough.  I seriously want to dance like no one is watching.  2014 held two great concert disappointments – one of which is seeing The War on Drugs in Omaha (long story… same night as bags league – blah, blah, blah – no excuse is good enough).  I continue to kick myself over it but I can tell you that I won’t make that mistake again.


While we’re on the subject, the second great concert disappointment of 2014 is not walking the five minutes to the 80/35 festival downtown when Boy & Bear had their free set.  Again… kicking myself.  But I could hear the end of their set from my apartment and let me tell you, it was so beautiful despite the distance it had to travel to meet my ears.  Even though technically Harlequin Dream was released in 2013, I played the heck out of it in 2014.  It started, quite literally, the moment their set was over and I listened heavily throughout the year.  Lyrically, this is where it’s at for me.  Their stuff is cheeky, well-written and the music backs it up.  Picking just one song off his album is really difficult because they’re all wonderful in their own right.  Please listen.


Beck made a new album this year… so there’s that.  I couldn’t include a list without including Morning Phase.  This was an album I was so excited about that I continually streamed it off the NPR first-listen website days before it was actually released.  As you guys may already know, Sea Change is one of those albums that will forever be in my Top 10.  This entire album is simply delicious.  Listening for the first time was an experience because it sounds so much like Sea Change.  This album is all the beautiful things.  Imagine your happy place… right now… this album is the soundtrack to that happy place.


I almost feel bad making a segue from Beck but there are more albums to be discussed.  That said… another massive listen for me toward the latter part of the year was Delta Spirit – Into the Wide.  I paid this album no mind initially because of my deep love for Ode to Sunshine but when my birthday surprise included a trip to Omaha to take in the Delta Spirit show, I had to give it a listen.  It was on after that.  The album is great but seeing them live is even better.  I gain so much respect for artists after seeing their live show and Delta Spirit were so gracious and fun and talented.


I would be incredibly remiss if I didn’t include Broken Bells – After the Disco.  I realize this album might be a little more mainstream (like me saying my favorite band is Coldplay) and oft overlooked but I am a sucker for James Mercer.  And Danger Mouse.  ‘Nuff said.  While I’m not in love with every song on this album, it got a lot of play time during long drives.  It’s not actually a very long album and all the songs flow incredibly well.  I love the sound of the disco music with modern, clean, James Mercer vocals.


Notable 2014 players: 

Albums that didn’t get enough listen time: the full length release by Haerts happened this year!  Looking forward to more of that in 2015.  Spoon – They Want My Soul because yeah, Spoon.  I love their ability to change/reinvent their sound at any given time while maintaining that wide-body-guitar hum throughout.  I’m a huge fan of Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga and Gimmie Fiction and I was really looking forward to this release – I just haven’t listened enough.  Coldplay – Ghost Stories.  I love Coldplay.  I really wanted to listen and love this album but the truth is… it’s just *too sad* for me at the moment.  And I love sad.  My heart just breaks listening to the words and the music and it’s a gut punch for looking back on my own mistakes and sadness.  I think everyone can relate; I just need to be at a place where I won’t cry my eyes out at the first chord.  So I go back to their old stuff a lot (looking at you Live in 2003 which is unfortunately NOT on Spotify.).

You guys, there was SO much good stuff that went on in 2014—so many releases by some of my favorite bands.  One of the best things about music is its ability to shape what we want to listen to.  That’s happened to me a lot this year and I’ve gotten to experience my own tastes changing and evolving as a result.  The albums I’ve mentioned are the ones that will come with me into 2015.  They pass the Ryan-test of being lyrically and musically sound.  Music by artists that I feel are truly that: artists.  These albums get stamped in time so the next time I listen, I’ll remember where I was or what I was doing; I’ll feel happy or sad.  I believe that music is the soundtrack to life—the ultimate enhancer.  My hope is that maybe you’ll listen to some of this; maybe it won’t be for you but maybe some of it will… and we’ll have connected in the way that many others do across space and time.

holiday help

This holiday season, I’m being a responsible adult.

It’s always a bit difficult for me to do my Christmas shopping, pay for the rental car, pay for gas and tolls and then eat my way through Cleveland when I go home for a week at Christmas.  I usually end up back in Iowa with an empty bank account and 10 extra lbs (okay, okay—15).  As you guys know already, we’re “making” family gifts this year and I gotta tell you that I really like it.  Channeling my inner ‘crafter’ has been quite the new experience.

As a back-up plan, I thought I’d get all ‘in the Christmas spirit’ here on the blog and give you guys a gift guide.  You know, in case you all have an ultra cool 32-year-old in your life that you’re having to buy for and you just don’t know what to get her.  (wink face)

* * *

First, foremost and only – she deserves this turntable.

Guys, let me get all nostalgic on you here.  There is something so rich and magical about vinyl.  This was a great year for albums and how nice would it be to relax by putting on a…. record…. after a long, hard day.  I’ll tell you right now, I’m all about it.

* * *

Looking for something a bit less expensive and more personal?  I’ve got you covered.  For me, personally, one of my goals for this winter is finding a new signature scent.  I’ve been feeling like I want something that almost borders on masculine—because, and let’s be honest here, there’s something super alluring about musk.  Here are my top recommendations to achieve that desired affect: Oud & Bergamot – it’s both smoky *and* ladylike; Dark Amber & Ginger Lily – this one was surprising because the aroma of the Ginger Lily wasn’t near as overpowering as I thought it might be; Wood Sage & Sea Salt – this was quite literally a day at the beach followed by a bonfire at the shores after dark – very bewitching; and finally there’s the trusty Kiehl’s Original Musk.

* * *

Still not quite getting there?  I submit this for your consideration.  It’s perfect for people like me who can’t quite handle actual animal heads on the walls but cool enough that it’s still considered pretty b.a.  I’m always looking for animal-friendly ways to gain street cred.  Obvi.

* * *

Who am I kidding though… thoughtful gifts (and for me, experiences) are the best kind of gifts.  So this year, give from your hearts and I’m sure you’re all going to please everyone you love.  Even if that gift is edible (hey, that counts for craftiness, right?!).

something to talk about.

Lately, it seems like the same post is showing up on all my favorite blogs.  The post about blogger burnout.

It’s the topic of the moment.  While I can’t exactly relate (as I’m an incredibly inconsistent blogger with dreams of actually having this problem), I can understand the general feeling of burnout.  My whole adult life I’ve reinvented my situation every two years.  It’s about the marker of time for me to change positions in the company, for moving, for that sneaking feeling of urgency to stir in my belly that something needs to change.  While I’m in this period of embracing my 30’s (myself) I’m trying to pull that part of me in and figure what I can do with it vs. letting it fill me with unease and continue on making me the nomadic person I’ve always been (thus starting all over).

I actually like where I am right now so that feeling is more or less channeling itself in the form of nesting and trying to hone my creativity.  When I say “hone my creativity” it kind of consists of spray painting 20 year old bedroom furniture, replacing the pulls (harder than it seems) and trying with all my might to conjure a blog post.  I have my cart hitched to a fella who loves *stuff* which goes against every bone in my minimalist loving body.  I don’t have any useful life hacks to provide, tips on spray painting furniture (okay maybe two), tips for decorating, etc.  The scariest thing I’m facing currently is trying to figure out what to make my family for Christmas this year.  And guys, those are all blog posts I’ve considered before realizing it would be three sentences long.

I believe in life there should always be a desire for growth, a learning and a refinement; something to spur you on in your journey.  My journey has always been about fulfilling my desire to *be* (all that I can be?).  You guys remember this post.  It’s a lot like that; there are dreams I have, things I want to make, things I want to contribute to my family and the world.  It’s a little exhausting at times trying to do all of that within the confines of every different set of circumstances and I am so.hard.on.myself.  That brings us to the burnout.  I’m in this grey area of time between my birthday and Christmas where I feel a combination of homesickness/productivity/excitement/boredom all at once.  It’s got me in a funk not easily cured by the usual suspects (food, writing, reading, running).  Frankly, I’m feeling a little lack of inspiration.

Doesn’t it seem so crazy that in this world of over-stimulation someone should find themselves in this situation? I think about that a lot. Anywhere I look I can surely find a modicum of inspiration (I spend a lot of time on the internets, guys) but I can’t seem to translate that into something that I want to say.  Maybe over-stimulation is actually a creativity killer?  I can’t seem to see that far in the future so I don’t know where I’m going with this space but I would hope that we’ll still be here; me sharing my stories with you.

Meantime, I hope you’re all well and I’ll be back soon.

stolen idea

I’m completely stealing this blog idea – because I love it and let me tell you why.  I love the honesty of it and I’m continually looking for balance when it comes to my honesty here with you all and making sure that I’m not crossing into territory where I’m hurting someone’s feelings.  I’m sure other bloggers can empathize that when you’re blogging about your life, it can sometimes get compartmentalized and complicated.  I’m sure it’s much more freeing to blog about recipes and cooking or fitness.  What’s going on in my life drives this blog – good and bad (probably the reason for some lengthy absences).  I don’t want it to come off “Dear Diary” style but at the same time, it seems like when I’m writing from my heart, it’s less work to convey an idea and you all are more receptive.  So in the spirit of honesty, I give you the 3 Things I’m Bad At.

#1 Paying “silly” bills on time

Okay… I wrestled over including this one cause it makes me sound *so* immature.  But since we’re being truthful, I do have a few bills that I regularly don’t pay on time.  I know it’s not a good thing, guys.  Stuff like my cell bill, a store credit card (cringe), internet – those are bills that seem a little sillier than rent, car payment, CAR INSURANCE so I take a few liberties when getting those paid.  I know all bills are to be taken seriously and I’m in the process of trying to scale back the spending and tighten up on the whole budget thing.  The funny part about this is that I never feel more adult than I do when all my bills are paid.

#2 Openly correcting grammar

Okay, so I love proper spelling and grammar.  I’m sure I’ve abused it a time or two in the past – who hasn’t?!  I can tell you that I’ve gotten a lot better at knowing when to correct in mixed company (I used to be worse and way more annoying).  Sorry, family, you’ll always be fair game.  My eyes are trained to find the errors in PowerPoint presentations and in business situations I take people less seriously when something is misspelled.  I love the English language and I will be the first person to butcher it intentionally, so I’m really sorry in advance when I mutter “well” under my breath when someone says “he did good”, or “supposedly” when I hear “supposebly” or “essspresso” when I hear someone order “expresso” because truthfully, I have no right to do that.  Clearly, this is an ongoing area of opportunity for me.

#3 The follow-through

This one is probably the hardest and the most honest.  I start a lot of things I don’t finish.  I’m well aware through old adages and reading that this is an undesirable characteristic.  My resume includes diets I start and don’t finish, gyms I start and don’t commit to, books that lose my interest and end up back on the shelf, starting and stopping running about five times, leaving the last dish in the sink unwashed after doing alllll the other dishes, and not calling my family/friends as often as I should. There’s also the ideas that pop into my head randomly throughout the day of things I think I’d like to do.  Prime example: today I was thinking maybe I should make all the food I eat from scratch and eat nothing processed.  Let’s be honest, guys.  That’s a setup for immediate failure.  I can spin this a plethora of different ways, both positive and negative.  It doesn’t hinder my growth as a person but I really do this a lot.  I think it probably frustrates me more than anyone else (right, family?).

I believe we all have things we’re bad at.  And generally speaking, those are the things that cause us a bit of heartbreak, some bumps and bruises and leave us with some thicker skin.  Yes, a good portion of the time we’re the better for having gone through hard times.  That’s not always true, of course, but when I look back on times I thought were so hard they’d crush me I scratch my head wondering how I could have thought it was so bad.  The point is, if we start owning those things we’re bad at it becomes easier to embrace the unique person we are.  They don’t have to be defining characteristics… they can just be a smaller part of what makes up the whole.

what i’m listening to

Hey guys!  I came to the conclusion that it’s going to be tough business for any blog post to follow Avery’s story.  So while I’m cooking up something bigger about inspiration, let me tell you about the things I’ve been listening to that are currently inspiring me daily.

As you guys know, I’ve been loving on the podcasts lately.  Below are the ones that I lost myself in—to the point I was holding my breath:

This American Life: Dead Men Tell No Tales

I had no idea about this story.  I don’t even remember hearing it in the news.  The research done for this story must have spanned months and, quite honestly, been pretty dangerous.  Considering everything that happened to the “characters” in this true story, it left me feeling a little conflicted about the tactics used by the FBI when interviewing the suspects.

Snap Judgement: The Pact

The Angeli Symphony story is incredible.  It’s a tragedy that turns into an unbelievable success.  I’m so inspired by Stuart’s resolve… I don’t want to say too much lest I ruin it but if you want to feel inspired by a man convinced of his higher calling, give it a listen.

The Moth: Fog of Disbelief

This is the story of Carl, an American who was actually working at the nuclear reactor site during the earthquake at Fukushima three years ago this week.  Listening to the raw emotion in his voice is gripping.  It’s completely unfathomable what he must have gone through.  I hear his words but I can’t imagine the fear, the disbelief, the magnitude of what he experienced.  The part where he talks about the 23rd Psalm… there were tears in my eyes.  For the power of the human spirit, listen.

Unfictional: Family Justice

This is quickly becoming one of my favorite podcasts.  Unfictional is similar to The Moth and Snap Judgement in that it’s simply people telling stories.  I don’t meant to say “simply” cause the stories are usually amazing stories but it’s people like you and me.  The second story, from Ed and Melanie, is both hilarious and my worst nightmare.  To lose a pet that’s essentially part of the family would be devastating to me.  Ed and Melanie have a way of telling it with the suspense of a detective story and a healthy dose of hilarity.

And… I couldn’t compile a list without you guys knowing my favorite podcast episode ever.  It’s a tie for number one and I’ve gone back to listen to these time and time again—they’re just that good.

Radiolab: Lost & Found

Emilie’s story (the last story), Finding Emilie, is a story that has stuck with me since I first heard it in 2011.  I think about all the ‘what ifs’ when I listen to it… what if Emilie hadn’t been able to communicate with Alan?  What if Alan hadn’t had the connection he did with her – to pull her through?  At the heart of this story is love.  I think this story will touch your heart too and if you’re like me, you’ll visit it time and again cause it just.sticks.with.you.

And co-number one…

Radiolab: Patient Zero

I have a bit of an obsession with disease.  I think pathology would be a great backup plan for me.  Patient Zero tells us the origin of AIDS and Typhoid—and it’s told exquisitely.  I have recounted these stories to family and friends at least a dozen times but I can’t do it quite as well as Radiolab does.


Inspiration has also been coming from great new music lately.  I won’t gild the lily too much on these albums cause they stand on their own perfectly fine without my flourish.  The first of which has already been receiving acclaim by people far more qualified than I to give it.

Beck – Morning Phase

Beck… I love you.  I especially love when you’re contemplative, reflective, complicated, sad and the music is big and orchestral.  I loved you in Sea Change and this is the perfect companion to its brilliance.  I listen to this album from beginning to end and then start it all over again.  Great with the sunrise and coffee, great on the afternoon drive, even better in the evening with a healthy glass of red.  Beck for all.

The Family Crest – Beneath the Brine

Oh.em.goodness.so.good.  There is no other way for me to describe this album.  Apparently, it was funded by a Kickstarter Campaign… which is amazing.  The title track is beautiful and a close second would be “The Water’s Fine” which has this incredible Frenchy sound.


I hope you all find some inspiration through these recommendations!  Happy listening!


Since I’ve been driving so much for my job now, I’ve taken to listening to podcasts to pass the time.  Buying books “on tape” from iTunes has been getting just a liiiittle expensive and there’s only so many times I can listen to the same news on NPR.  I’m a huge fan of the Radiolab podcast as well as This American Life (the “Good Guy” epi = amazing).  I’m pretty impressed by the way people they interview can recount one really amazing personal story.  Storytelling is one skill that’s always evaded me.  And if there’s anything about me you should know, it’s that I get really interested in things I can’t do well (examples: farming, running, being a grown up, etc.).

I learned once that the more you tell a story, the less true it becomes.  That would be a good problem for me to have cause the details of a story are where I stumble.  I’ve spent a lot of time thinking of stories to tell you guys but the things that I remember seem to be limited to the things that were big lessons or turning points for me and they’re snippets at best.  There is no fear more acute to me than the dreaded sharing of ‘fun facts’ at work functions with a room full of my peers.  Maybe I’ve mentioned that I became slightly preoccupied with the notion of a book of essays—till I realized that I have no stories to turn into essays.

So I think I’ve painted a pretty clear pictures of how bad I am with memories… you guys get that, right?  That point is important here because I’m writing the rest of this about my dad (and dads in general).  I don’t have any great dad stories to tell you because I am not so good at telling stories.  What I’m hoping to give you are broad ideas to paint a picture of what my dad means to me.  Let me first tell you, again, that I am blessed in the parental department.  I have three very special parents who would do anything for my sister and me.  My cup runneth over.  There are amazing qualities about my mom and there are amazing qualities about my step-mom, Jodi, and I love all three parents the same.  Growing up, there was always someone to teach me something, someone to ask questions to and I was lucky enough to have three different teachers and three different perspectives.

Moms are amazing creatures.  I think society can agree with me there.  Just this morning on the Today show there was a story about how women do it all: wash the kids, dress the kids, pack the lunches, have a career, run the kids to sports/ballet/tumbling, make time for the hubs, make dinner, do the laundry—and because I’ve had two amazing mom examples, I know this to be true.  Credit where credit is due, sometimes I think dads get a bad rap.  I think the stereotypical dad is the guy that provides financially for the family, is the disciplinarian and generally the TV watcher.  I think there are many, many, many dads that break that stereotype into a million pieces and those are the dads that amaze me.  I’ve observed my friends as dads, friends of friends as dads, my dad as a dad, TV dads, dads of friends and let me tell you—I have seen some AWESOME dads.  That brings me to my dad.

This past week my dad celebrated a birthday and it got me to thinking.  In the last five or so years, I’ve observed my dad being my dad much more than I ever have.  It’s because I see more of him in me as an adult than I ever have before.  My dad is strong, intelligent, capable, hard-working, sensitive, funny, personable, silly and he wears his heart on his sleeve.  What you see is what you get with my dad.  For as long as I can remember, I always wanted to be someone my dad liked; I always wanted him to *see* me.  His eyes and his smile and his laugh and his satisfaction were always favors I wanted bestowed upon me.  My sister and I used to take turns sitting in the middle seat in the front bench seat of his pick-up truck so that he could rest his giant dad-hand on our knobby little knees when he wasn’t shifting the gear shift.  My heart is full of a mishmash of memories of my dad: I’ll always think of my dad wearing a tee-shirt in the middle of winter; of him letting us put barrettes in his hair for hours.  I’ll think of him wearing suspenders or riding the subway on our family trip to Washington DC or of teaching me not to be afraid to try new food (my first taste of a mussel at East Side Mario’s).  I’ll think of my dad in stories he’s told or the picture of him as an altar boy when he was so young that’s forever burned on my brain.  I’ll think of him with his huge family and his hand-me-downs and him drinking powdered milk as a boy.  I’ll think of him working from the time he was able baling hay so he could save for things he wanted.

From my dad I learned to be hopeful, I learned to work hard for what I want, I learned to appreciate nice things, I learned the art of giving and I’ve learned patience by watching him (we jokingly refer to it as “the patience of Joe”).  He means the world to me and even with all the ups and downs and highs and lows and wrongs and rights in our history, there is nothing in this world I wouldn’t still do to have him laugh with me or smile with me or talk to me or see me.  Our relationship is less about my seeking his approval and more about understanding the place where we each come from.  Maybe even a little bit of walking a similar path to get where we are now.  I couldn’t be more grateful for my dad.  Pretty soon, I’ll get to see him as a grandpa to my sister’s baby (truth: I’m excited to see all my parents in the grandparent light).  While there are a lot of things my dad isn’t, there are even more things that he is.  The scale tips in my favor and I realize how lucky I am.

The beauty of my parental tapestry is that the colors run together so I’ve become who I am from all my parents’ values and lessons and hopes for me running together—to the point where there isn’t just one person who taught me to love and accept and be open-minded.  Somewhere along the way, all of this became something I noticed.  I’m grateful for that perspective. So on this birthday and all the birthdays to come that I’m lucky enough to spend with my dad, I’ll celebrate him for all the good he’s done, all the good he’s yet to do and all he is.

Happy Birthday to this guy.  My dad.  (and me, obvi.)

Happy Birthday to this guy. My dad. (and me, obvi.)