Knowing and Not Knowing

Though I’d been searching for a painting for above the fireplace for years, I’d gotten used to that expanse of white. When we finally found the one, it took a while before I got used to its presence. I’d walk through our door and feel a bit startled by its beauty. In it I saw an incredible floating island, a place that, like a vivid dream, skirts the lines of something you know, but can not know.

Contracted by Susan Hodgin

I didn’t know the artist – not really. We exchanged a few words once in her studio on a First Friday. On hearing of her passing, I didn’t know what to do with my grief. I wouldn’t expect to feel this ache for someone I haven’t actually met.

It didn’t occur to me until today, but I suppose there’s a strange intimacy in owning art. The painter, having made this singular creation, chooses to let it go into the world. The collector, in accepting stewardship, builds on the story. Between them, an invisible thread.

Rest in peace, Susan Hodgin.

Medium

I’m experimenting with writing on Medium – my first post is live!
 
Vulnerability + Business
 
It’s an exploration of vulnerability at work. It’s a post I tried to write for the SmallBox blog back in March, but never published because it didn’t feel finished. For whatever reason, the words came much easier this morning. Maybe it was the months of distance, but perhaps it was that Medium was the right space to publish it.

For more of my writing with a more business slant, you can also check out my SmallBox blogs.

Phoenix

New client kick offs are always exciting. When it includes a spring trip to Phoenix, that’s a pretty major bonus. After the crazy winter and chilly spring in Indy, the break times spent in their sunny courtyard felt like quite the retreat.

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We got to do a bit of exploring. Of course Jeb made sure we found a record store, and we ran into a familiar brand at Stinkweeds. Look at all that Indy-based Joyful Noise faced out.

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Luckily one of my travel partners is wired for adventure. Lydia and I woke up before the crack of dawn to go walking each morning at Papago Park.

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Spotted one of my favorite birds in the dessert. The North Flicker looks entirely different on a cactus than it does on my backyard bird feeders.

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I still have red sand in my shoes, and I’m ok with that.

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Winter’s Last Hurrah

Louie and I have long held a debate about winter – I’m pro, he’s con. Or maybe I should say was pro-winter. This year has challenged decades of preference. As another snow fell yesterday, I couldn’t help but hope that this might be winter’s last hurrah.

As I cleared my car for another slushy drive home, I was feeling pretty sour. I needed a few reminders on why I love winter to pull me out of that funk.

  • Coffee never tastes as wonderful as it does when it’s twenty degrees outside.
  • Only in winter, can you see something like this:

birds_021514_squirrel

  • And then there’s the sound of snow underfoot. I like to think of it like an Eskimo might, making up a sound-word for the snow. Each makes its own distinct noise. Sometimes a snowfall goes squench. Sometimes kroosh.

The drip-drop of icicles melting hold the promise of spring. Soon it’ll all be gone. And while it’s hard to imagine it now, I know by mid-summer, I’ll miss it again.

icicles

Birds

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Louie asked for a bird feeder for Christmas. I didn’t know it, but we were standing on the edge of a slippery slope. One feeder turned into six. We set our first feeders up January first and waited. It took about ten days, then our backyard exploded with activity. The gallery above features some of our backyard birds from January 2014.

Featured (I think! I’m still learning): Dark-Eyed Junco, Northern Cardinal, Northern Flicker, Red-Bellied Woodpecker, European Starling, Carolina Chickadee, Tufted Titmouse, Purple Finch, American Goldfinch, White-Breasted Nuthatch, Mourning Dove.

Tales from the Polar Vortex

Funny to think, a week ago I had never heard of such a thing as a Polar Vortex (which also goes by other equally incredible names: polar cyclone or circumpolar whirl). Another funny-not-really-funny thing, who’d have thought all those winters in Chicago wouldn’t have shown me the toughest cold I’d ever felt? That Indy would earn that honor?

snow

Sunday:

There had been warnings. Go to the store. Stock up! There may be outages. Eight to 12 inches, etc. The snow was falling thick and fast, like the kind of snow they try to recreate on movie sets.

Our power outage came early. Before four o’clock. Louie was hopeful we’d be back up and running in time for Downton Abbey by 9 p.m. I didn’t share such high hopes.

We walked the dogs. I shoveled the walk – round one, at least. Louie cleared out a path to the grill for a dinner of chicken and veggies (it was supposed to have been dumplings, but when you have just a grill to work with, you compromise).

Life lesson #1:
Things that work well by candlelight: dinner, a neck and neck game of Trivial Pursuit.
Things that don’t work so well by candlelight: washing dishes. Ah well, they got done. Close enough.

We took stock of our neat, small pile of firewood, decided to save it, in case we really needed it. With an extra sweater, it was still warm enough inside. We weren’t yet wearing hats and gloves. Early to bed.

Monday:
Louie was resourceful, ground our beans with a mortar and pestle and made coffee on our camping stove. It was tough prying myself out from under the down blanket, but there was hot coffee, and it wasn’t that cold yet, not really. Before the power died, Louie had made a coffee cake. I begin to realize my survival odds, if things came down to that, are greatly improved thanks to him.

I needed to check in with work, and the only way to charge up our phones was to dig out the car. We piled on clothes until I felt absolutely Stay Puft – quadruple shirts, triple pants, double socks. I re-discovered the inferno that is this vest I knit long ago, had deemed too hot to wear inside. It’s a miracle my coat buttoned. Still…

Life lesson #2:
No amount of layering prepares you for negative fifteen degrees. And we’re not even getting into wind chill, which went into the minus forty range. Instant numb.

dig-out

We started losing a degree per hour in the house. By 2 p.m. it was 38 degrees inside. Irrational fear of losing the indoor plants to frost set in. One of my two dogs actually started shivering. In the house. We’d been waiting, conserving, but gave in and built the fire.

All five of us, Louie and I, the two dogs and the cat, piled into a five by two foot space directly in front of the blaze, camped there all night. We played games, ate piping hot brats and kraut from the camp stove. It wasn’t half bad. We had each other, and that fire. It all felt like an adventure, one we knew would come to a close.

The temperature had mostly leveled out. When it was time for bed, we were down to 34 degrees inside. Truthfully, we fell to sleep, and deeply, between the quiet, the dark and the incredible power of down feathers.

Tuesday:
I woke fitfully at 3 a.m., absolutely burning up. And, man, did that feel good. I ignored any notion of decorum and yelled: The power’s back! We were already up to a balmy sixty degrees. As I peeled off hat, mittens, wool sweater and vest, I realized the television was fuzzing away in the other room.

The rattle of the heater pushing hot air through the grates, the blue glow of the clock from the cable box, the low-grade hum of all that stuff that’s sucking electricity through the walls.

After de-layering and a quick trip around to turn off lights, the tv, we tried to get back to bed. But that blue glow, that clock we’d gotten used to. It seemed blindingly bright after two nights of dark. Louie yanked the cord.

Life lesson #3:
Unplug things. It’s incredible how hard silence is to come by. Finally, a bit more sleep, then back to normal.

Well, sort of.

Made it into work, and we all shared our own polar vortex stories. Some never lost power, but there were tales of 40 foot felled pines and burst pipes too. I heard someone say driving down College was like driving on the surface of the moon. There were stories of firemen knocking icicles off buildings downtown. Strange days, these.

Wednesday:
First thought upon waking: We still have power! YES!

Life lesson #4:
I am, it seems, not as tough as I like to think, and I’m far more fortunate than I credit.

A Loaded Spring

I’m sitting on my couch writing, feeling like a loaded spring. This is what happens, I guess, when you become a runner.

I ran 5 miles on the first of the year. It was cold, but not the painful or numbing kind. It was breathtaking, exhilarating. The clouds rippled out from the sun, like so:

cloud-rippled sky

On the second, I woke to a heavy blanket of snow, and knew the six mile run I’d planned wasn’t happening. I didn’t even bother digging out my car and trying my luck on the treadmill at the gym. Tomorrow, I’ll run, one way or another, I thought.

Because I couldn’t run, I did the next best thing. I dug into “Born To Run” by Christopher McDougall, a book I’d been reading about ultrarunning (any distance longer than a traditional marathon), the way modern sneakers can ruin our feet, cause injuries and a hidden tribe from Mexico, the Tarahumara, who can run for hours, even days across rugged terrain in nothing but a thin sandal. I devoured what was left of the book, which culminated in a 50 mile backcountry race, pitting the best ultrarunners against the Tarahumara.

In the elite running world, there had been lore about the Tarahumara. They were reclusive, mysterious. No one knew their secrets. How curious that they could run like that without getting injured. And more curious, why did they run such great distances, all for fun (it was a game – two days of running! For a game!)?

I’ve learned this lesson in my own way: running becomes a whole other animal once you learn to find joy in it.

It wasn’t love at first step for me. I’d jogged a mile or two off and on over the years. A fair weather runner, I’d have called myself. Before I fell hard for it, I had to shed a lot of baggage, casting off of what I’d assumed was just what runners do. I had to find my own way.

It was much easier to relax into a rhythm once I let go of pace. I’d always thought you just get out there and run as fast as you can and get it over with. But I hated gasping for air, the forced feeling of it all. One day I decided I didn’t care to be the fastest, I only wanted to stick to my word. If I said I’d run 10 miles, I wanted to finish.

Then, I ditched the headphones. As a music lover it seemed natural to pop in earbuds and listen to something with a quick beat, something that might motivate me. As I increased miles, those earbuds started to feel like a distraction, causing a weird throb in my ears. I’d put them in to be a distraction in a good way, not like this. So I tested a music-free run and never looked back. I listen to breath, and the sounds of my steps, and the world around me. And sometimes, when I find that rhythm, I don’t really hear anything at all.

Back to “Born to Run.” I’m thinking about desert running, and the heat. And I’m looking out my window at snow-covered everything. My weather app says it is 0º outside. And I think I want to be my own kind of crazy and try a quick run in it. I’ll just commit to getting out there, even it’s just for a block, something I know I can finish. I need this. I am a loaded spring.

Addendum:

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I did get out there and it was glorious. I ran all six miles I’d hoped to run yesterday. Once I made it to the Monon Trail, it was mostly cleared. There were patches that were a wee bit dicey, like where the trail crosses side roads and on the bridges over the canal. But mostly, it was clear and free, and glistening with green salt crystal. For the three miles out, there wasn’t a soul on the trail. It was just me, the birds and the crack of salt underfoot.

Just after turning back towards home I saw a runner moving toward me on the horizon. As he passed, I mustered a nod. What I had really wanted to do was to proclaim: “Cheers to being one of the crazy ones! Isn’t it good to be ALIVE?!”

Ten Things I Can’t Believe I Haven’t Blogged About Yet

Today marks the final day of daily blogging for Think Kit. It’s been fun (sometimes – ha!), rewarding and challenging. Miraculously, at the end of it all, there are things about the past year I still haven’t blogged about. I’ll take this as a good sign of a full life.

Today, Think Kit asks what I’m most looking forward to next year, but I’m just not done yet on reflecting on last year. And so, I give you the top ten things I can’t believe I haven’t blogged about yet.

10. Nature can be crazy.
I had never heard of an anvil cloud before (although I think Russell refers to them in the movie “UP.” I spied this very fine specimen on the way to Columbus, Ohio. It was a little unsettling, to say the least. Despite feeling a little nervous (Hey, are we driving into the end times here?) I was mostly in awe of it and the myriad surprises of the natural world.

Ohio Open sign9. Local Love.
Speaking of Ohio, I got a different take on the local love movement I’ve watched thrive in Indianapolis. We visited Columbus, where Louie’s two siblings live, for a long weekend. There’s something different about visiting a place and staying with residents, rather than doing the hotel thing. We saw signs of Ohio pride and local love at every turn. Locally roasted coffee, distinct neighborhoods, a lively dining scene, signs like the one pictured here. I’m pretty taken with the idea that in cities all across America there are movements like this happening, people falling deeply in love with places. I hadn’t really thought much about that until that visit to Columbus.

Stolen bikes8. My bike got stolen. Twice.
The first time, Mayowa and I had our locks cut and bikes taken from the back of the SmallBox building in the middle of the night while we worked on the 24 Hour Web Project. I went and bought a new bike, and two months later, someone entered the SmallBox building during the middle of the day (on a Monday, during regular business hours, with 20 people working nearby!) and stole my new bike from our basement. I’d been parking it inside, thinking that would be safer. I decided I didn’t want to waste a lot of energy complaining about it online, but I have been a bit heartbroken over it still. Writing about it here gives me a bit of closure. When I was searching my 2013 archives, I found this photo of my bike (the white one) parked in the SmallBox lobby with Mayowa’s before they were stolen. The other – well, I hadn’t even taken a photo of it. I’m planning to go bike shopping again this week, so hey – there’s one thing I’m looking forward to in 2014. I wish I didn’t have to do it again, but new bikes are fun, despite unfortunate situations requiring them.

hummingbird7. I bring all the birds to the yard.
I got some new hummingbird feeders this year, and really enjoyed seeing these little friends from our kitchen window. For Christmas, Louie said he wanted a regular bird feeder to attract birds year round. I was surprised how much fun I had shopping for them. Confession: I ended up with more than one. Okay, okay, So I bought five of them. Did you know there are really a stunning variety of types of bird feeders? Now you know. I’m pretty excited to get them all set up and see new life in the yard.

Wave action shot6. I really want to start a wave.
We went to a lot of baseball games this year. We ate nachos out of a helmet. We watched games in the rain. We saw Mark Prior pitch for the Louisville Bats (we lived in Chicago when he was in his prime with the Cubs, so that was pretty crazy to see). We attended Joe Morgan Day, which included the return of Pete Rose to the baseball field for the first time. And we went to a game in Columbus that had what I can only call (stealing from the Great Pumpkin) the most sincere wave. The people who started this wave were nearby, so we saw it in its humble beginnings, then in full stadium glory. After I snapped this wave action shot of Louie, I knew I had a new goal. I need to start a wave at some point in my life.

5. I fell in love with Broad Ripple Park and the White River.
Jon Rogers and Musical Family Tree headed up a summer music series called Listen Local in Broad Ripple Park. It was a pay-what-you-want benefit for the Parks Foundation. I volunteered at a couple of the shows, but there was plenty of time to just sit back and enjoy the scene too. It was incredibly laid back, sort of pastoral even, to see live music amongst the trees.

As a team perk for SmallBox, we rented the Tiki Barge (who knew this existed?! Amazing.) and cruised down the White River. We also sponsored the inaugural WARM Fest, which was put on it part to return to Broad Ripple’s river roots. Dan Ripley, who spearheaded the whole thing, has some cool old photos and stories of when Broad Ripple was more like Coney Island, with a lively promenade and attractions along the riverfront. I didn’t know much about that history until this year, and I definitely didn’t appreciate Broad Ripple Park and the White River as much as I do now.

Tiki Barge, Broad Ripple Park

4. I met an internet-famous cat.
Mark that down as something I never thought I’d do. Louie and I both sort of fell in love with the magic that is Lil Bub. There was a screening of his movie and a chance to meet Bub in person (in cathood? how does one say that?) in Bloomington on Louie’s birthday. Lest you think we’re totally crazy – there was a lady in line ahead of us who drove six hours (six!) to meet Bub. The line to get in wrapped around the block, then around the next block too, creating a scene even the staffers seemed surprised by. The ushers kept popping out of the theater to snap photos with their cell phones. And this is where is gets weird. As we waited out turn, we watched as people exited the theater. They seem changed, or at least touched by a temporary happy innocence you might associate with children. I heard one person shriek, “I touched her!” It was pretty magical. Here’s Bub getting a break with her owner, right before we got to meet her.

Cityoga 30 day challenge shirt3. I did a 30 day yoga challenge.
I was running 25 miles a week, just starting marathon training, and ramping up for 10 day madness that is Indy Film Fest at the same time. In order to ensure total craziness/test what I’m really made of, I decided to jump in on Cityoga’s 30 Day Challenge, in which you attempt 30 yoga classes in 30 consecutive days. I actually made it, and all I got was this t-shirt! Oh, yeah, and the total peace and calm that comes with all that stretching, practice and patience on the mat. This sort of got overshadowed by my running accomplishments this year, but I’m pretty proud of this too. They do this every June and July, and I’d highly recommend it.

2. Forever Home.

After saving for more than a year, we officially started our house hunt in October. So far we’ve only seen one house that matched all of our criteria and our budget. We may be looking for months to come to find the right one, but Louie and I are pretty set on finding the one, the forever home. We understand that one day life could take us away from Indy, but for now we’re planning on being here for the long haul. And if that’s in the cards, well then we want a house that will be everything we could ever need. Continuing this hunt is what I’m really looking forward to most in the new year. I’m crossing my fingers we’ll find it by March or April.

Kyle Ragsdale1. Five years.
Louie and I celebrated five years of marriage this October. We continued one of my favorite traditions of collecting “anniversary art.” We have one piece for each year of marriage. When I saw this Kyle Ragsdale painting, it was love at first sight.


This post is part of Think Kit by SmallBox
Today’s prompt: “What are you looking forward to the most about the next 365 days?” + Lifeline prompt: “Make a “Top 10″ for 2013! Choose your favorite moments, records, movies, sporting events, or any other item and compile a list. Make sure there’s a #1!”

Flying Pig

I knew I wanted to run another race this year, but I’d been hesitant to commit. Over the holiday, Louie’s sister was talking about the Flying Pig Marathon in Cincinnati, and how at one point on the course, there’s a hill so steep it’s like you’re eating asphalt. Ouch.

Ever since marathoning became a possibility for us, Louie’s had his eye on this one. The hills, they sort of terrify me.

Despite that, it’s official – we registered today. I’ll have to start training right away. February might bring ice and snow, forcing me onto the treadmill. I’ve only ever trained on flat ground, but to prep for this one, I’ll need to do some hill hunting. Tomorrow, I’ll start small and kick off my training with a four-miler.

Below is the race map with the elevation changes noted. Mercy.

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This post is part of Think Kit by SmallBox
Today’s prompt: “What’s one step you can take to support a goal you have for 2014? What comes next?”

Awesomefacing

awesomefacing Awesomefacing. The first known occurrence was documented in this terribly grainy photo on January 16, 2009, on the occasion of getting a new television. We’d upgraded from a 19 inch double wide number, the kind of tv that weighed about five times what you expect. Louie was just a little excited.

We laughed until we cried over this face. It made occasional, but few appearances over the years. I’d request it every now and then.

A sample exchange:
Me: “Hey Louie, make that one face.”
Louie: “What face?”
Me: “You know what I mean!”

And then, in 2013, awesomefacing officially became a thing.

Louie and I trained for and ran the 500 Festival Mini Marathon in May, and the Monumental Marathon in November. His pace is faster then mine to the tune of two minutes per mile. Because of this, we very rarely run together, but we did choose the same training plan. Most days, we’d depart for our runs at the same time, and at some point, we’d cross paths on the Monon Trail, me still heading north, him circling back towards home.

I don’t recall the first time it happened, but at some point Louie began to greet me with his best awesomeface as he passed. The only thing to do at that point is to awesomeface right back.

Here’s how you do it: Kick your head back just a bit. Stretch your mouth open as wide and high as you can as you can – then push yourself to do it a little bit further. If you’re doing it right, it probably will hurt a little, and then you’ll start laughing. Especially if you’re looking at someone else who is also awesomefacing.

We gave it this name along the way. It’s incredibly silly. I’m sure more than one individual who has witnessed our exchange on the Monon has thought we were certifiably insane. But you know what? When you’re digging in and trying to push toward that next running milestone, a good awesomeface goes a long way to pump you up.

This post is part of Think Kit by SmallBox
Today’s prompt: “What word(s) did you learn OR make-up this year? How did you learn it/make it up? Did you start using it?”