Wednesday, October 31, 2012

on the hurricane and people and responding

The weather can be frightening.  The hurricane was (and is) scary.  The amount of damage that nature can make is scary and intense and overwhelming.  I so feel for my friends and family that have been caught in the Sandy crossfire.  (Including my cousin in the Boston area, who posted some very frightening video footage this week).  I work closely every day with a number of New Yorkers, and since I haven't lived through that kind of devastation, I can literally only imagine the horror.

I was surprised to hear and see (on Facebook, mostly) a number of off-color jokes and comments.  ("Well that's one way to get the Jersey Shore show cancelled" or other comments about "what will they do without cold Diet Coke" or Facebook access).  It just rubs me the wrong way.  It comes off to me as... too soon.  Callous.  Insensitive.

And while I understand that humor is one way to diffuse a scary time, and there's that old saying about "sometimes all you can do is laugh or else you'll start to cry" but to me, it's just inappropriate.

I don't know what to do, or say, or how to help.  It's hard to know what to do from one thousand miles away.  But I know that I don't like that response, and I want mine to be different.  Kinder.  There is a blood drive in my building this week and while I suspect that it was pre-organized and doesn't have anything to do with the Hurricane, I think I will face a silly internal fear and give blood (for the first time) because it's a good thing to do.  And I'll make a donation to a hurricane relief fund and I'll say a prayer for the 55 who lost their lives and the eight million (including my sister-in-law and several good friends) who are still without power.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Book Review: It's Not About the Bike

I've read Lance Armstrong’s “It’s Not About the Bike” several times before but I was looking for a book to read last week, and had nothing new so I picked it off my bookshelf.  He’s obviously been in the news a lot lately, and I wanted a refresher on his story.

I’ve said it each time I read it – and I’ll say it again now: go read this book.  My copy is tattered and worn, from my own use and because I’ve loaned it out to so many people over the years.  It is a book about Lance and cancer and cycling and strength and weakness and fighting.  But it’s mostly a book about hope and courage.

The book is absolutely FULL of inspiring quotations, and lines that you just want to commit to memory.  One of my favorite passages (lengthy but good):

Those questions, Why me? What are my chances? were unknowable, and I would even come to feel that they were too self-absorbed.  For most of my life I had operated under a simple schematic of winning and losing, but cancer was teaching me a tolerance for ambiguities.  I was coming to understand that the disease doesn’t discriminate or listen to the odds – it will decimate a strong person with a wonderful attitude, while it somehow miraculously spares the weaker person who is resigned to failure.  I had always assumed that if I won bike races, it made me a stronger and more worthy person.  Not so.
     Why me?  Why anybody?  I was no more or less valuable than the man sititng next to me in the chemo center.  It was not a question of worthiness.
     What is stronger, fear or hope?  It’s an interesting question, and perhaps even an important one.  Initially, I was very fearful and without much hope, but as I sat there and absorbed the full extent of my illness, I refused to let the fear completely blot out my optimism.  Something told me that fear should never fully rule the heart and I decided not to be afraid. – Lance Armstrong, It’s not about the bike

There are also stories of incredible acts of humanity and kindness.  Like when Lance found out that due to an expiring contract and his new contract not taking effect yet, that he was inbetween in no-mans-land of no health insurance (news that he got just days after his cancer was diagnosed).  Anyway, one of his sponsors, Oakley, not only didn’t yank their monetary support, but when the health care provider balked, the CEO picked up the phone and said that if Lance wasn’t given coverage, that their entire firm would take their business elsewhere.  Oakley, Nike and Giro paid his contracts in full – every single one – even though they could have terminated.

It’s interesting to read his love story with his former wife, Kristin, because though they went on to have three children together, they eventually split up and seem to have some friction.

All this to get to my secondary point: did Lance use drugs?  The evidence says yes, other cyclists say yes, and I think, well, he probably did use performance enhancing drugs.  But I can’t say with absolute certainty because I wasn’t there and I don’t know him.  But I do believe that Lance Armstrong as a person is so much bigger than cycling and the Tour and the yellow jacket.  The most important parts of his story are about cancer research and inspiration and hope.  I was reading an article recently that I think summarized my POV beautifully:

When it comes to evaluating the deeds of a fellow human, I try to avoid making broad generalizations. Instead, like an accountant, I base my opinions on an analysis of one's perceived assets and liabilities.
     By my accounting, the amount of good that Lance Armstrong has brought to this world still outweighs the amount of bad. I believe he has the potential to get beyond this scandal and to deliver untold benefits to millions of people in the years ahead.

And, I guess, to tie both the book review and my opinion of his doping scandal up in one line: it's not about the bike.

Photo of the Day: UV Cake Vodka Edition

I tried UV Cake Vodka this weekend at my parent's house... and it was DELICIOUS.  Tasted just like birthday cake in vodka form.  Loved it.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Photo of the Day: Mail Edition

When I was home this weekend my parents gave me the couple pieces of mail that came to their address for me.  Hilariously, they were both "Vote Republican" mailings.  Pretty funny... and interesting, because I've been a registered (and proud) Democrat since the day I turned 18.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Kelli + Zach: October 27, 2012

I was thrilled to be able to witness my friend since middle school marry her love this past weekend in CR.  The wedding was beautiful, the reception was a blast, and it was just an overall great wedding and day.

There were a few especially nice details, like a chocolate fountain which featured strawberries, pineapple, rice krispie treats, homemade marshmallows.. and BACON.  A candy table, featuring all purple candy.  Groomsmen wearing matching sneakers throughout the reception.  A crazy cute flower girl and ring bearers.  A bride who was glowing and beautiful and madly in love.

An amazing wedding and fun night.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Scott's First Open Mic Night

On Wednesday night Scott participated in his first "open mic" night... and I loved it.  He's been taking guitar lessons for several months now (and he's really good if I do say so myself) so a few of his classmates met at a bar for their weekly open mic.   They performed two songs - "In to the great wide open" and something by Tracy Chapman (I can't remember the song name).  I can't wait to go again!

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Quote of the Day: Lance Armstrong Edition

"Life is long - hopefully".  - Lance Armstrong

More on this later.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Jill + Chad: October 20, 2012

This weekend Scott and I made a trip to St. Louis for the wedding of my good college friend Jill.  (You might remember that I went to Jill's bachelorette party on my 28th birthday).  Jill's wedding was outside at a beautiful winery about 45 minutes southeast (I think) of St. Louis, and she couldn't have gotten a more picture perfect day.  The forecast was 58 and cloudy, but it ended up being at least 10 degrees warmer and clear sunshine.  The ceremony was short and sweet, with the couple's dogs playing a memorable role, and concluded in a sparkling wine toast on a bluff overlooking the beautiful fall foliage.

After that, we had two or three hours until the reception began, so instead of moving directly to the hotel where we were staying, a group of 15 or so of our college friends all stayed at the winery for a tasting :)  (And seriously, at $6 each you couldn't beat it if you tried).  The wine was all delicious, but the company even better.

Then we moved on to the hotel for a quick check-in to drop our luggage before it was off to the reception in scenic downtown St. Charles.  The reception was held at the Opera House, so it was both visually pleasing and historic.   After a good (and hearty!) meal, it was time to dance our feet off :)  I haven't danced that much for a long time.  (And no joke - my feet were KILLING me the next day).

It was a thrill to witness Jill and Chad say their "I do"s, and amazing catching up with my girls and their awesome guys.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Photo of the Day: Tomr's Tonic

Scott was introduced to Tomr's Tonic a few weeks ago at an independent spirits festival and was given a sample which we drank the other night and it was goooood. Definitely the best G&T that I have ever had.

Maloney / Special Wedding Highlight Clip

I could watch this all day.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Quote of the Day: YSL Edition

"The most beautiful makeup of a woman is passion. But cosmetics are easier to buy" - Yves Saint Laurent

on binders and women and the workplace

I'm a little late to the "binders full of women" game as Debate #3 is raging now across my newsfeed (but not my tv... go Bears).   Anyway, I'm finally taking the time to sit down and talk about the main thing that irked me about Romney and the second debate.  And while it's related to the whole "binders" debacle, it's not exactly that.

First, so we're all on the same page, here is the full quotation (and for the record, it's from Fox News so it has no liberal lean):

ROWLEY: Governor Romney, pay equity for women?

ROMNEY: Thank you. And important topic, and one which I learned a great deal about, particularly as I was serving as governor of my state, because I had the chance to pull together a cabinet and all the applicants seemed to be men.  And I -- and I went to my staff, and I said, "How come all the people for these jobs are -- are all men." They said, "Well, these are the people that have the qualifications." And I said, "Well, gosh, can't we -- can't we find some -- some women that are also qualified?"  And -- and so we -- we took a concerted effort to go out and find women who had backgrounds that could be qualified to become members of our cabinet.  I went to a number of women's groups and said, "Can you help us find folks," and they brought us whole binders full of women.  I was proud of the fact that after I staffed my Cabinet and my senior staff, that the University of New York in Albany did a survey of all 50 states, and concluded that mine had more women in senior leadership positions than any other state in America.  Now one of the reasons I was able to get so many good women to be part of that team was because of our recruiting effort. But number two, because I recognized that if you're going to have women in the workforce that sometimes you need to be more flexible.

The emphasis is mine, and I included it because I wanted to be completely clear about what bothered me so much about his remarks.  It's not the "binders full of women" comment, because frankly, I'm too busy being amused by it.  (And while he completely botched his delivery, I do understand the spirit of what he was trying to say - at least what I hope he was trying to say - which is that there were many qualified women available for the position).  But what bugged me was for him to explicitly say that if you're going to have women in the workforce, that you sometimes need to be more flexible.  That made it appear as if to have women in the workplace you should give them special rules and special treatment.

That is a huge leap backwards for gender equality and considering the question was about pay equity - it's the exact wrong message to send.  (And in fact, considering the question, perhaps making this overarching flexibility exception for women would actually fly in the face of the "equal pay for equal work" idea, because if we're allowing women this broad "flexibility" then the work and job is certainly not equal?)

And beyond the actual words that he said, it bothers me that he seemed to think this was a selling point, that he was being progressive and treating women well by saying that women deserve more workplace flexibility.  But what women actually need is to be viewed in the same way as our male counterparts - as strong candidates and capable employees, not as these people who need flexibility.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

happy 60th dad!

Wishing my amazing father a very happy 60th birthday today.  I'm so grateful for the time we spent this weekend celebrating (and equally grateful that my first attempt at baking resulted in something edible).

Wish I could toast you in person today, dad, but know I'm celebrating with you in spirit!

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

on who i'm voting for

I am voting for Barack Obama.

To me, my vote is a no brainer.  I dislike Mitt Romney both personally and politically, I dislike what his religion stands for, and I dislike his vision for America.  But it's not just choosing the lesser of two evils, as someone said on Facebook.  I like President Obama.  I believe in him.  As a dedicated democrat, my views align closely with his.  And I believe in what he stands for and how he intends to achieve it.

Women's Rights. I will never give my vote to someone who wishes to take away the right I have to make decisions for my own body. I am completely pro-choice.  (And for the record, pro-choice does not equal pro-abortion).  My body - and my right to make the decisions that are right for me - should not be up for discussion. 

Gay Rights.  I believe gay people should have the same rights to marriage (yes, marriage - not civil unions) as heterosexuals. 

Welfare.  I believe that it is the obligation of society to help those among us who need a hand.  (Sidebar: in tonight's debate Romney said that when Obama took office that 32 million people were using foodstamps, and that it's gone up to 47 million.  The implication was that this was a bad thing, but frankly, I am thrilled that we're feeding another 15 million.  I would like to feed anyone - anyone - that is hungry.  Scott and I donate to exactly two charities, and one is the Greater Chicago Food Depository.   Further, for one out of every six Americans, "hunger is a reality"  so I am pleased that we as Americans are feeding the hungry).  

Healthcare.  I believe in affordable healthcare for all - not just those that can afford it, and I believe that Obamacare is a giant leap in the right direction.  

Jobs.  There have been 31 consecutive months of job growth, and I believe that Obama is the right person to continue the trend.  I understand that the job market is tough right now, and that it's more competitive than ever, but I believe that more jobs will be created in an Obama administration than a Romney administration.

There is so much more that someone could say about the candidates.  National security.  Foreign relations.  Immigration.  Taxes.  Education.  But the fact is, even without taking the time to spell out an exhaustive list, I trust President Obama.  I believe that he will make good and informed decisions for Americans.  The bottom line is that I believe that four more years of President Obama will make America better and stronger than four years of Mitt Romney.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Photo of the Day: Unique Taco Edition

My friend Melissa and I met up last Wednesday night for gourmet tacos, Rosemary margaritas and a healthy dose of hometown gossip.  :)  

We met at this interesting place in Bucktown/Wicker Park (not sure which it technically was) called Unique Taco and I really liked it!  Definitely not your typical taco place where you feel like you need to roll home.  The food was an interesting and inspired twist on the classic tex-mex that I'm used to.

Even better than the food and drink?  A chance to catch up with a great friend.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

my parents

I couldn't resist posting all of these photos of my cute parents.  They are so in love, even after so many years of marriage.   They were in Chicago for barely more than twelve hours, but we crammed as much as possible in to those hours, including an impromptu photoshoot on our morning walk:

I especially love the last one.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Photo of the Day: Badass Edition

My bro killed it in his race yesterday.  5 miles in under 26 minutes.  Do you know what that means?  He basically has wings.

Photo courtesy of Loras Collge Athletics Facebook Page.

Friday, October 12, 2012

22) Pay off our car

Not the most interesting of updates for anyone except me (and Scott but he already knows about it) but... the Scion is officially paid off.  I've only been a part of the payments for the year and a half, but I am thrilled to have this checked off (and the extra cash going straight to our savings account each month won't hurt either).  It was one of the items on my informal pre-baby bucket list, and now it is no longer.

twelve months

Twelve months from today I will be dancing the night away at my younger brother's wedding, and even better - I will have a new sister.  It seems so far away, and yet I know the next year will fly by.  I'm beyond excited for all of the fun ahead in the next year.   The coundown is ON.

Great looking couple, huh?