Does Running for a Cause Make a Difference?

Thursday, July 2, 2015
In May I had the pleasure of participating in the second annual Race for Respect, a 5k run for Down Syndrome advocacy right here in the heart of old D.C. The race was pretty near perfect, from the weather to the scenery to the amazing people who ran on Henry's team. And I'm glad I ran. But I'm going to be honest, there were many days whilst trudging my flabby, winter body up hills when I wondered, "Why the heck am I doing this?"

Charity runs are awesome. But you have to ask, do they make any real difference? Obviously, evidenced by the fact that I did drag the aforementioned body through training, I believe
they do. In more ways then one...

Financial - Now I realize in most cases, after overhead, very little of the entrance fee will go toward helping people with Down Syndrome. But some will. And I believe wholeheartedly in the amazing work of the organizations who host Race for Respect and am always happy for the chance to support their work. In addition to providing community support, information and resources for people with Down Syndrome and their families, F.R.I.E.N.D.S. (our local group), DSNMC, CDSPG, DSAGR, DSANV, DSASM, PODS of PGC and DSC grant scholarships to people with Down Syndrome and student going into professions that benefit people with disabilities, help families with medical expenses, advocates for legislation that will improve the quality of life for individuals with Down Syndrome and other disabilities (such as the ABLE act, laws prohibiting abortion based on a prenatal diagnosis of Down Syndrome and laws creating nondiscrimination in access to anatomical gifts and organ transplantation) and much more. At the race I was encouraged when I was introduced to a father of a sweet three year old boy. He shared of attending a Buddy Walk (hosted throughout the region by the above groups and across the country by many others!) when his wife was 20 weeks pregnant with their son and they had just received a diagnosis of Down Syndrome. He said seeing the families of children with Down Syndrome made him realize they were just normal families and reassured him that he, too, could do this. That is awesome and totally worth it.

Making a Statement - You can chose to look when you see the employee at the grocery store/child on the playground/young person at school with Down Syndrome. But you can't ignore 600 people running down Pennsylvania Avenue. When you run for a cause you make a statement to which people must listen. Before Addison was born I did not know anyone with Down Syndrome (now I realize how sad that was!) and I think there are many people outside the Down Syndrome community who can say the same. Events such as Race for Respect and Buddy Walks are a wonderful chance for the general community to get to know people with Down Syndrome and their families! Guys, once you can put a face on the diagnosis it makes the citizen casting their ballot/mother considering aborting their child with Down Syndrome/person mocking people with disabilities rethink their actions. We need to show the world what their missing!

Better You, Better World - Running is physically, mentally and emotionally challenging. So is being Addison's sister. Running is hard. Being Addison sister is even harder. But it is worth it. And if I'm going to be the sister he needs I need to be physically, mentally and emotionally strong to care and advocate for him. In order to reach my greatest running potential a few months out of the year I need to kick running ass. In order to reach his greatest potential, every day Addison must choose to kick ass. To, despite the physical and mental challenges, wake up every morning and fight for every ounce of food...fight for every milestone...fight for every movement. I'll never be able to understand what he goes through on any given day...but I can through demanding more of my body identify with his struggle and be prepared to help him be his best.

As always, I would love to hear your thoughts! Have you ever participated in a charity run/walk? Why or why not do you think they make a difference? Comment below.

Currently Reading | June

Saturday, June 27, 2015
This month...all novels. No shame.

Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
Hmm...what to say about Americanah? Honestly the plot was just eh, okay. The story alone could not carry this book. And I was not impressed by the characters. You get the feeling Ifemelu is supposed to be a strong, resilient character...I just got indecisive and a lot of whine. And the same goes for Obinze. I couldn't attach to any of the characters which is a bad sign for any book. BUT! The redeeming aspect of this book was the chance to see America and specifically race in America through the eyes of an African woman living in America. (American three times in one sentence...I deserve a patriotic award.) Eye opening, it will challenge your thinking. Even though the story was lame, I gotta say, it was engaging. Due to some content and darker themes I would only recommend to mature readers.

Bruno Chief of Police by Martin Walker
This book was really just cozy, fun fluff. Recommended by my librarian, this murder mystery centers on Bruno, Chief of Police in a small town in the south of France. The setting was just so fun and every time food is mentioned (which is often) it made me hungry...Bruno has some cooking talent and hopefully he will publish a cookbook some day! But the best part of this book was the snippets of WWII history throughout the story.

And speaking of WWII...never mind we'll come back to that...best for last, you know. First let's touch on...

A Spool of Blue Thread by Anne Tyler
Love, love, love! A Spool of Blue Thread tells the story of four generations of the Whitshank family. Their struggles, their hopes, their failures. The story centers in their family home in Baltimore. (I love books that take place in Maryland.) It's a book about family...a cross between The Happy Yellow Car and A Tree Grows in Brooklyn. The story is beautiful. The writing is beautiful. The characters, in all their flawed glory, are beautiful. It makes you want to cry and laugh at the same time and really encourages you to treasure family. Can't recommend enough, I will definitely be looking up more by this author! And just to give you a sample of Anne Tyler's writing...

“For years, she had been in mourning for the way she had let her life slip through her fingers. Given another chance, she’d told herself, she would take more care to experience it. But lately, she was finding that she had experienced it after all and just forgotten, and now it was returning to her.” 

“You wake in the morning, you’re feeling fine, but all at once you think, 'Something’s not right. Something’s off somewhere; what is it?' And then you remember that it’s your child—whichever one is unhappy.”

"There was nothing remarkable about the Whitshanks. None of them was famous. None of them could claim exceptional intelligence. And in looks, they were no more than average... But like most families, they imagined they were special. They took great pride... At times they made a little too much of the family quirks—of both Amanda and Jeannie marrying men named Hugh, for instance, so that their husbands were referred to as “Amanda’s Hugh” and “Jeannie’s Hugh”; or their genetic predisposition for lying awake two hours in the middle of every night; or their uncanny ability to keep their dogs alive for eons. ”

Just go read the book before I end up posting the entire manuscript.

All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr
Oh goodness. This book. I've always had a thing for WWII books (not really sure why but there you have it). And this story is particularly touching. It follows three parallel stories: 1. A young, blind French girl, Marie-Laure, as she flees Paris with her father to live with her uncle who still suffers from the ghosts of the Great War 2. Werner, a German boy whose talent with radios and the sciences lands him in Hitler's Youth and 3. The Sea of Flames, a priceless diamond fabled to protect the owner and destroy everyone the owner holds dear. And yes, I know that sounds weird but as the stories of these three come together it makes sense. It's a dark, emotional story but so worth it for the chance to witness a little light in such a dark part of history. Again, I would only recommend for mature readers because of some very dark themes. And I will warn you, it is almost impossible to put down...I read over five-hundred pages in six days...which is pretty much unheard of for me but gives you an idea just how engrossing it is!

I will be back next month and I promise there is nonfiction in the lineup!

Always on the lookout for recommendations...what are you reading?

Until then...

Caution! This Post Contains Gluten

Wednesday, June 3, 2015
photo via pinterest
Before we get started I want to preface this post by saying I have the greatest sympathy for any individual who has a medical diagnosis of Celiac disease or a gluten intolerance and I am in no way trying to make light of their challenges. That said...

To be perfectly honest, I am more than a little fed up with the gluten-free trend. Five years ago how many of us gave gluten a second thought? Don't you remember the good old days when we were too busy trashing carbohydrates to pay gluten any attention? Now this innocent, naturally occurring protein composite, responsible for the lovely chewiness of bread and lightness of cupcakes, has become the villain of the grocery store shelves. Bread, once considered the staff of life, is now viewed as a national threat. Grown adults shutter at the G-word. What happened?

Monkey see, monkey do. Keeping up with the Jones. It's human nature. But just because Novak Djokovic's game improved after he was diagnosed with a gluten intolerance does not mean going gluten-free will make you a tennis star. And just because celebrity-not-a-nutritionist, Gwyneth Paltrow, started her kids on a gluten-free diet does not make you an irresponsible parent for letting your kids consume gluten with total abandon.

Nosophobia is commonly experienced by medical students who, while studying a disease, become preoccupied with a particular disease to the point where they are convinced they are suffering from x disease. But let's face it. Headaches, dizziness and weakness can be caused by one of a million things. Including simply not drinking enough water.

Crazes cause individuals to think and do...umm...crazy things! And social media (aka trend breeding ground!) does not help. It starts innocently enough. Mrs. So-and-So is experiencing abdominal pain, headaches and fatigue. After proper testing, her doctor diagnoses Celiac disease. She begins to eat a gluten-free diet and her symptoms resolve. But, wait! You've been having those symptoms as well as irritability and constipation! So you consult Dr. Google. Lo, and behold, right there on Web M.D., your symptoms are staring you in the face. This is incredible! You follow Mrs. So-and-So diet and, miraculously, your symptoms resolve. Pat yourself on that back. You just self-diagnosed. Sheesh, why stay at that desk job you hate so much? You're ready to hang up your shingle and take on patients. Who needs medical school?

Is my snark showing?

First, let's get our names straight. There is a difference between Celiac disease, a wheat allergy and a gluten intolerance. Celiac disease is an inherited autoimmune disorder that affects the lower intestines' nutrient absorption. The Celiac Disease Foundation states an endoscopic biopsy is the only accurate way to diagnose Celiac disease. A wheat allergy is a short term reaction to a substance the body considers harmful. A gluten intolerance is the GI track mounting a stress response to gluten resulting in permanent damage to the intestines.

You know how annoying it is when someone walks in on the middle of a conversation and, not understanding the context, makes a ridiculous assumption? Just because your symptoms resolve, you loose weight and feel great after switching to a gluten-free diet does not mean gluten was the source of your problems. Cutting out gluten means cutting out a lot of foods. It could be your self imposed gluten limitation is discouraging you from consuming processed products and empty carbohydrates and is encouraging you to seek out more nourishing foods. We would all feel better if we replaced processed crap that bloats and weighs down even the best of us with fruits and veggies. And, judging by the taste of most gluten-free alternatives, it wouldn't surprise me if a gluten-free diet encourages portion control...there is only so much dense bread one can take before going crazy.

Ultimately, if eating gluten-free makes you happy, by all means knock yourself out with the rice pasta.  But please do not minimize the conditions by claiming Celiac disease or gluten intolerance without a medical diagnosis. It's not fair to those with a legitimate diagnosis. And it's not fair to yourself. If you are having symptoms consult with a trusted physician. 15 minutes of internet research does not equal 15 years of medical training. If that was the case I wouldn't have nightmares about student loans and MCAT scores. You need to care for your body and self treating could just complicate matters by masking symptoms. Love your body, love your life. Admit you are not your own doctor.

Would someone pass the pasta?

Currently Reading | May

Thursday, May 28, 2015
I know, I know...long time no post! Well it's also been a long time no seven-hours-of-sleep and long time no-time-to-breath so cut me some slack. BUT! I'm planning on a slightly slower paced summer...so hopefully we will up the post count on the old blog. Although, when it comes to a choice between writing a blog post or chilling by the pool with a book...love you guys but guess which option wins? I have a tempting stack of book recommendations from my awesome-even-if-she's-never-read-Agatha-Christie librarian. 

And speaking of reading...I had three topics to choose from for today's post. I could tell you about Henry's party...but I don't have time to edit photos...or I could rant about my completely frustration with individuals "self-diagnosing" Celiac...or we could talk about my May reads. You can thank me later for choosing the later. (But consider yourself forewarned of what's to come.)

Take the Risk by Dr. Ben Carson - I did not read this book because I am particularly interested in risk management. In all honestly, I've never given risk management a second thought. But my sister gave me this book because I'm kindasortareally a huge fan of Ben Carson and his amazing work (we can discuss my patheticness later). So I figured I would enjoy Take the Risk but did not anticipate being so intrigued by the subject matter. Surprise! Take the Risk is about learning to decided which risks are worth taking, the importance of taking risk and having the courage to....um...take the risk. Dr. Carson's B/W Risk Analysis is seriously brilliance on such a simple level that even I understood it. But I will warn you! You will find yourself applying the B/W Risk Analysis formula to literally everything...and learning just how many risks you take on a daily basis and how many more you should be pursuing.

How Starbucks Saved My Life by Michael Gates Gill - The title is intriguing, the book even more so. I'm something of a memoir junkie...as in tendencies toward devouring them with a passion. It's a chance to see inside someone's head and that is awesome. Anyway... Michael Gates Gill grew up as a son of privilege, had a high powered job he invested everything in and then suddenly found himself alone, jobless...and in Starbucks. Asking for a job. And this once powerful member of the elite is scrubbing bathroom floors. And finding himself genuinely happy for the first time in his life. This book will challenge you to find happiness wherever you are, embrace the joy of serving and will make you really want to work for Starbucks! If my list of reasons Starbucks is the best wasn't long enough...

The Medical Book by Clifford A. Pickover - My mom tells of passing time at her father's desk flipping through the PDR and admiring the pretty, bright pictures of all the pills. (Guys, I seriously want a PDR!) Apparently I'm my mother's daughter...I love the big, shiny pictures in this book of (among other things) anatomy, microorganisms and molecular structures! Basically, this book is a trip through history with medical discoveries as your mode of transportation. Definitely not an in depth exploration of each subject but enough to wet your appetite. And all the pretty pictures!

What are you reading?

What My Mother Taught Me

Sunday, May 10, 2015
  If it's worth doing, it's worth doing right.

What good is a 'perfect' home...or any home at all...if you never share it with the world?

You can feel like hell but you don't have to look like hell.

In all areas of life poshness must reign supreme.

Life isn't about you.

People before all else.

Family before all people.

Always make things right.

Failure is giving anything less than your best.

There is no group of individuals I find more fascinating to observe and study than that unique race we know as mothers. No two are alike. Their personalities, appearances, backgrounds, upbringings, educations...they are all unique. Together these factors form their mothering philosophies which will determine who their children (and consequently, the next generation) will be. (No pressures, moms.)

Above are just a few of my mom's key phrases. I've heard these principles taught for as long as I can remember. And as I have, one by one, grasped the significance of each lesson I've realized...wow! My mom knows a thing or two. When you are young you think your mom is...well, you mom. I'm finding the more I get to know my mother as a person and my friend...and truly understand her strengths, weaknesses and what makes her tick...the more I respect the incredible person she is. Mom is not perfect and she isn't the perfect mother. But she is the perfect mother for me. And I am so grateful God chose for us to walk through this life together.

Confessions of a Runner

Wednesday, May 6, 2015
↑ All the sarcasm...
-I hate running.
-As in seriously, despise-dread-sorta-hate.
-My farthest run is six miles.
-I have no intention of ever running any farther. 
-Currently I am trained to a 5k, 3.1 miles.
-A slow 5k.
-My seven year old sister can run circles around me.
-I am not...I repeat not...a natural born runner. You know, the annoying breed who can run a half marathon without training and never break a sweat.(And yes, I do kinda-sorta-really-hate those people.)
-While I have run several winters (below 19 degrees hurts) I chickened out and didn't go for a single run last winter. And I don't regret it one bit.
-Even though I know it kills my endurance, sometimes I can't resist the urge and just sprint...there is such a thrill is giving it all.
-I have to have motivation to run. Otherwise, forget about it.
-This season I have been working on improving my attitude toward running. Sure it's not the biggest bundle of kicks, but I am grateful that I have the ability to run and I'm trying to keep that in mind and take it one hill at a time. It's a work in progress...  

"Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that."

Wednesday, April 29, 2015
Baltimore is a beautiful city full of charm. While D.C. is great is will never be able to capture the realness of Baltimore. In the past weeks a cloud has covered Baltimore. In the daytime there is an eerie silence. Guards and police are posted on every corner. Businesses are closed. The fear hangs in the air like a thick fog. Things are not right. The tragedies of Ferguson are saddening but this is our turf. This is personal. Want to talk about surreal? Driving past sites where riots were taking place less than twenty-four hours ago.

I couldn't even count how many times a week I remind a flustered little sibling, "Just because (insert person, place or thing) did it does not make it right." Violence is and will forever be wrong. And two wrongs will never equal a right. Our human hearts will forever be set on evil. But never is the power of the Gospel more real than when we see the depravity of humanity up close. What could overcome such a force? What could possibly transform hearts so full of hate? Only the Gospel. We are wicked sinners. But Jesus is a wonderful Savior.

"Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that."  Martin Luther King, Jr.

Two Years

Tuesday, April 28, 2015
Two years ago Henry entered my world. I had no idea what was I was in for. I will never be able to understand how this little person...this little person who most of our world does not consider worthy of life...could so completely transform me. How can one person who says no more than four words change my entire way of thinking, my priorities and my life goals just by being himself?

Happy birthday, little man. I am so grateful God chose to place you in my life. It has been my greatest honor to know you and be able to invest in your future. Your bravery and strength to keep fighting, despite the challenges, has inspired me in more ways then you will ever know. There have been some crappy dark times but it has been worth the hurt to see you shine through them all. Kid, you are going to move mountains and I couldn't be more excited to be on your team. xoxo

Is it getting chilly in here? | The Frozen Birthday Party

Thursday, April 23, 2015
Okay, so I know it's spring and we are all in sunshine and flower mode but before you get too carried away with the flip flops and lemonade let's timeout for a flashback to December...

Saying my little sisters are obsessed with Frozen has been an understatement since they started wearing Frozen panties (and yes, it is okay to talk about their Frozen undies because if you asked...or not...they would tell you exactly which character their sporting on their little tushies. I digress.) Basically, if they aren't watching the movie they are singing the songs, wearing the costumes of coloring the activity books. I completely indulge this obsession because...well, one day they'll be grown up and I'll miss hearing their little voices singing "Let It Go" at all hours of the day...or night.
Ellie has been asking for a Frozen party since last April so when November rolled around and we starting talking birthday plans the key word was, well, Frozen. I was super excited to head the planning because I already had so many ideas...the hardest part was narrowing them down.

I'm usually totally chill about parties. Okay, so that's a lie. I'm usually obsessive compulsive about every detail BUT I usually manage to transition fairly easily between planning and...non-planning (?) mode. For some reason, weeks leading up to this party, I kept having dreams about guests showing up early, decoration collapsing...generally everything going terribly wrong...apparently I need to get a life. Weird dreams aside, the day came and despite sleeping in and therefore preparations beginning late and therefore my throwing on clothes like five seconds before people arrived, the party went off more or less without a hitch. One little guest told me it was "the best day ever!" which makes it a success in my book.

For the menu we stuck to kid friendly light lunch foods. Melting Olaf yogurt cups (I spent a long time debating whether or not they would be too morbid before deciding the kids probably wouldn't notice or care), Sven's carrot sticks and snow dip (all the cheesiness), Olaf cheese sticks (I doubled up...so sue me), Anna's snowflake sandwiches (because we finish each other's...), Arendelle Fresh Pressed Juice (I was desperate?), Elsa's cake pops (not pictured) and...
graphics for juice box wrappers and buffet cards via Etsy
...Chocolate cupcakes with whipped frosting. Literally the best cupcakes ever...shhh...don't tell anyone but they are from Sam's Club...and $15 for 30...major score.
As far as decor, I tried to lean more toward the blue, silver, winter, icy aspects than the character because character parties make me cringe. And I'd rather you feel as though you are walking into Elsa's ice palace than the Disney store. I found these awesome snowflake ornaments (seriously, who has a tree that big?) at Dollar Tree for...umm...a dollar. They were big and glittery and perfect. 
By far, my favorite aspect of this party was the ceiling decor. Guys, ceiling decor is one aspect on which I will never compromise. Even the smallest addition can add so much toward changing the entire feel of the room. We simply hung light blue tulle and mixed in some of my awesome snowflake ornaments. 
Feeling chilly yet?

Table decor... Guess what? MORE TULLE. And also sparkly snowflake picks from the clearance bin at Joanne's. We mixed in a few characters because, well, it is still a character party, tied up the napkin rolls with twine, and we were good to go! Phew! Really slaved on that table layout! (Yes, those are plastic plates. Cut me some slack. It's a kid's party.)


Unfortunately I do not have a photo of the favor bags, which is a shame because Ellie and Carmella assembled them and they were pretty darn adorable. Insider the bags were (edible) snowman assembly kits, fancy-but-really-easy chocolate dipped marshmallows (simple amazingness) and their very own Frozen play goo (You're welcome moms.) In addition, on each child's chair was a scarf for them to take home.
And then there were the party games. You know, pin the nose on Olaf, Frozen lyric scavenger hunt, play snow, puffy Olaf paint...THE WORKS.
And there you have it! Great, theme Ellie...this party was such a blast to plan.

Currently Reading | April

Monday, April 20, 2015
The Monogram Murder by Sophie Hannah - I was reluctant to read this new Poirot mystery. I am not a fan of fan fiction (unintentional lousy pun) and tend to view the genera as a bunch of cheap knock-offs. And when I have something I love as much as I love Agatha Christie and Poirot, I don't want imitations, I want the REAL thing. BUT...my mom read The Monogram Murders on the suggestion of a friend and thoroughly enjoyed it...as she never steers me wrong and is the biggest Poirot fan I know, I decided to give it a go and was surprised how much I enjoyed it! While not Agatha Christie (let's face it, that would be impossible) Sophie Hannah does an amazing job capturing the feel of Agatha Christie and, I believe, preserved the overall character of Poirot, with a few, minor exceptions. I have to say, unlike Agatha Christie, the ending was predictable and the motive was weak. But overall, a pleasant vacation read.

Won By Love by Norma McCorvey, Jane Roe of Roe v. Wade - This book is just an amazing story of grace...an only-God-could story. Prepare for an emotional journey and some rather deep thinking.

Great Expectation by Charles Dickens - I'm not really sure how I got through English literature without reading this book...regardless, this is my first time through and Dickens has not disappointed...but then, has he ever? Reading this book is like having a bathtub full of sand and watching the sand spiral down the drain. Pip is asking for trouble and the big sister in me wants to reach into the pages and knock some sense into his crazy head...but I do promise, there is a happy ending.

What are you reading?